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A super failure and a new opportunity

November 23, 2011, 1:20 pm | Posted by Jennifer Butler

When the Congressional Supercommittee tasked with reducing the debt by $1.2 trillion announced its failure yesterday, I wasn’t surprised. After all, the announcement followed a yearlong series of showdowns that all ended the same way: last-minute deals forced by Tea Party ideologues that barely kept the government running while protecting tax breaks for millionaires and failing to create new jobs.

Some pundits equally blame both parties, but that ignores the fact that Democratic committee members offered serious compromise on entitlement programs and a balanced approach of cuts and revenue increases while the GOP negotiators insisted on even more tax cuts for millionaires rather than shared sacrifice. Talking heads who push false equivalence between the two sides do an active disservice to this crucial debate.

We can’t let our politics be dominated by those who fight tooth and nail to protect the wealthiest 1% from sharing any sacrifice as we address the debt. That’s why I joined numerous fellow clergy leaders at a rally outside the White House last weekend to demand that any debt reduction plan protect the most vulnerable and require the richest Americans to pay their fair share. Our community’s voice has an impact — the Circle of Protection‘s tireless efforts helped protect Medicaid and several other key programs from drastic cuts. We can’t stop now.

Since the automatic spending cuts caused by the Supercommittee’s failure don’t kick in until 2013 and the Bush tax cuts won’t expire until after the election, taxes and spending will loom large in 2012. The Religious Right and the Tea Party will pound the drum about the looming “largest tax increase in history” and equate reasonable calls for shared sacrifice with overwrought cries of socialism.

But the rest of us need to focus on a moral economic agenda – jobs, protecting the most vulnerable, and shared sacrifice from all Americans, including the rich and powerful. This new values debate will chart our nation’s future.

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