Why the next budget destroys the least of these

February 24, 2007, 1:06 am | Posted by

It’s budget time again and this one ranks very rank. As Ed Schwartz pointed out in the American Prospect:

“George Bush now gives us an annual laundry list of programs that he wants Congress to cut. The basic philosophy of the Bush administration seems to be that while it’s an honor to die for your country, it’s an imposition to pay for it.”

Here’s the budget and supporting documents.

Just to get us started, the Times weighs in, pointing out that:

The budget is based on a series of improbable, if not dishonest, assumptions. To make it appear as if the tax cuts are affordable in the near term, it assumes that the Pentagon will not spend a single penny on Iraq or Afghanistan after 2009. It also assumes there will be no costs for fixing the alternative minimum tax after this year, even though Mr. Bush and virtually every politician in America is committed to such relief. The new budget would also slash key entitlement programs and punish many of the country’s most vulnerable citizens..

As Firedoglake notes, It’s the Enron Federal Budget process — bilking the public and lying to them at the same time. Welcome to Bushworld, where everyone but the cronies gets screwed. And, even worse, as Deborah Solomon points out in the WSJ, the thing on which the Bush budget most relies: hoping for a lot of luck. Wait, isn’t that our policy in Iraq, too? Oversight, anyone?

Before we get depressed one of my favorite writers, Matt Taibbi, who wrote Spanking the Donkey a great history of the 2004 presidential campaign, tackles the budget.

In the recent issue of Rolling Stone also reprinted at Alternet, he writes about the current Bush budget and the funding priorities. While talk about the war, the environment, and human trafficking gets me moving, Matt makes a compelling case. In fact, this budget may be the most anti-Christ-like thing we face (Matthew 25:31-46).

Here’s some evidence:

On the same day that Britney was shaving her head, a guy I know who works in the office of Senator Bernie Sanders sent me an email. He was trying very hard to get news organizations interested in some research his office had done about George Bush’s proposed 2008 budget, which was unveiled two weeks ago and received relatively little press, mainly because of the controversy over the Iraq war resolution. All the same, the Bush budget is an amazing document. It would be hard to imagine a document that more clearly articulates the priorities of our current political elite.

Not only does it make many of Bush’s tax cuts permanent, but it envisions a complete repeal of the Estate Tax, which mainly affects only those who are in the top two-tenths of the top one percent of the richest people in this country. The proposed savings from the cuts over the next decade are about $442 billion, or just slightly less than the amount of the annual defense budget (minus Iraq war expenses). But what’s interesting about these cuts are how Bush plans to pay for them.

If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one family — the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune — would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.

The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion.

Or how about this: if the Estate Tax goes, the heirs to the Mars candy corporation — some of the world’s evilest scumbags, incidentally, routinely ripped by human rights organizations for trafficking in child labor to work cocoa farms in places like Cote D’Ivoire — if the estate tax goes, those assholes will receive about $11.7 billion in tax breaks. That’s more than three times the amount Bush wants to cut from the VA budget ($3.4 billion) over the same time period. Cox family (Cox cable TV) receives $9.7 billion tax break while education would get $1.5 billion in cuts. Nordstrom family (Nordstrom dept. stores) receives $826.5 million tax break while Community Service Block Grants would be eliminated, a $630 million cut.


the family of former Exxon/Mobil CEO Lee Raymond, who received a $400 million retirement package, would receive about $164 million in tax breaks. Compare that to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which Bush proposes be completely eliminated, at a savings of $108 million over ten years. The program sent one bag of groceries per month to 480,000 seniors, mothers and newborn children.

Taibbi adds, “Somehow, to me, that’s the worst one on the list. Here you have the former CEO of a company that scored record profits even as it gouged consumers, with gas prices rising more than 70 percent since January of 2001. There is a direct correlation between the avarice of oil company executives and the increased demand for federal aid for heating oil programs like LIHEAP, and yet the federal government wants to reward these same executives for raising prices on the backs of consumers.”

Not to sound self-righteous but I am reminded of those words of Bush’s favorite philosopher who promised to say in the end:

“Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me.” Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, “Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me.” These will ask Him, “When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?” And Jesus will answer them, “Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!”

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What’s new in the neighborhood?

February 22, 2007, 2:20 pm | Posted by

The Beatitudes Society: Salon writer Sara Miles writes on Ashes and Dust.

Faithful Democrats‘ Jesse Lava asks, will somebody (especially apathetic Christians) think of the children?

Quaker blogger gathering in light posts a “spiritual reflection on life with ghosts.”

The Wheeler Spin experiences deja vu with the neoconservative god’s of war.

The Rev. Chuck Currie got a new blogging job for the official UCC site. Check out his Lenten podcast.

Atheist Zen blogger Woodmore Village writes about UUism and Humanism: Or How I Learned to Like Unitarian Universalism.

From inside the UU world, philocrates writes about Harvey Cox’s lecture on “James Luther Adams: Evangelical Unitarian or Unitarian Evangelical?”

And Muslim blog City of Brass calls out those who use Christopher Hitchens racist language.

Special section on the discussion among bloggers about the role of faith in progressive public life.


Although the discussion existed before, due to the controversy over the language and politicization of former Edwards’ bloggers, the debate about the role of faith in progressive politics flared up this week.

Last week, kos wrote a long piece on religion, values and politics essentially pointing out that the best candidates and progressive policies come from values, both from the bible and from life experiences independent from faith. But that “talking about faith” hurts the cause.

Jim Wallis offers to make a deal:

How about if progressive religious folks, like me, make real sure that we never say, or even suggest, that values have to come from faith — and progressive secular folks, like you, never suggest that progressive values can’t come from faith (and perhaps concede that, in fact, they often do).

At Street Prophets, Pastor Dan responds:

So Mr. Wallis, let’s make our own deal. How about if you realize that there are other people in the religious grassroots working carefully and productively to make common cause with secular progressives.

Kos says, huh? I think we agree.

Atrios, who weighed in last week, writes:

There are few people anywhere in our mainstream discourse who are anything close to being anti-religion, and I’m not aware of any of them having prominent ties to the Democratic party or any prominent organization associated with The Left, let alone speaking for them. . .As I said before I don’t really care if progressive or any other beliefs come from faith, but who has denied that they can?

Wallis then tries to clear the air.

Then Kos suggests that he and Wallis don’t agree after all.

At Talk to Action, Frederick Clarkson weighs in against what he sees as Wallis’ unsupported worries about non-religious folks on the left.

Mik Moore of JSpot, notes the Jewish angle: “jspot is a progressive faith blog and thus part of the somewhat amorphous ‘religious left,’ (as is JFSJ). And the liberal Jewish community has always struggled with tensions between our observant, non-observant, secular, and anti-religious constituencies. My hope is that the lessons liberal Jews have learned and continue to learn can be instructive to the larger conservation [sic] surrounding Wallis’ post.”

Faithful Democrats‘ Jesse Lava wonders what the secular left even is. But he sticks up for Wallis, stating: I’m a fan of Jim Wallis. He has done an awful lot to draw attention in this country to a progressive Christian vision. Many Americans know the message of Matthew 25 (and the like) because of him. But Lava adds:

As these secular-religious discussions progress, I hope we can eventually come to a point where we don’t have to keep talking about our attitude toward each other — like one of those relationships where all you talk about is the relationship itself. Soon, I hope, we’ll understand each other and march on.

Noting that “Wallis, Street Prophets, Kos and Atrios are All My Brothers” Faithful Progressive weighs in on Mr. God’s Politics himself:

Yes, Wallis sometimes seems to attack straw men, he’s a little wobbily on keeping abortion non-criminal, and he seems on occasion to randomly lash out at Kos or the secular left for reasons known only to him. But this has to be put in the context of 30 years of work organizing on behalf of the poor. To me, that balance is overwhelmingly positive.

And finally,the Rev. Chuck Currie provides farsighted analysis:

But you walk away from discussions about religion on blogs like Daily Kos with the strong feeling that the secular left is happy to tolerate religious people as long as we use DNC talking points in place of the Beatitudes. We’re a tool to them (Wallis became the ultimate tool himself when he gave the Democratic response to a recent weekly radio address by the president). When the Christian faith simply becomes a tool for one or another of the political parties we fail in our primary obligation as disciples: to make other disciples so that we build up in the Kingdom.

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Mitt gets told, ‘You do not know the Lord’

February 20, 2007, 2:13 pm | Posted by

Hat-tip to Erik Kleefeld over at TPMCafe for this clip of Gov. Romney and a faith-based heckler at a recent event. Romney’s Mormonism is already generating pages of press coverage. I don’t have a good sense yet of how influential folks like the heckler are. Sure the crowd turns against the heckler (and Romney handles it all gracefully), but when citizens step into the booth to vote in primaries, will these doubts come back into play? Also worth noting that Mitt’s response is that ‘we need a person of faith to lead the country.’ Paging President Eisenhower…

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Rev. Wallis on Tucker

February 20, 2007, 11:02 am | Posted by

Get warmed up after the long weekend with an interview featuring Rev. Jim Wallis on Tucker’s MSNBC show…

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Get to know the Oregon Center for Christian Values

February 16, 2007, 6:46 am | Posted by

The Oregon Center for Christian Values is located in Portland and started after Jim Wallis stopped by on the God’s Politics book tour and more than 2,000 people showed up.

Lead by a ecumenical mix of activist Oregon grassroots leaders, the OCCV board includes evangelicals, Presbyterians, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, and Catholics all working for the common good.

According to them,

“In spring 2006, OCCV officially registered as a non-profit in the state of Oregon. We have since been faithfully working to engage local Christians in both action and dialogue around important issues in their communities. OCCV played an active role in promoting Christian support for the Payday Reform bill that recently passed the Oregon legislature, calling for an end to predatory lending practices that are morally unjust. We have also formed partnerships with a number of local organizations who are working to help broaden Christian moral leadership in public life, to include issues like caring for creation, supporting economic fairness, and working for the common good.”

OCCV has two community organizers who work with local religious leaders to train congregations on witnessing activities like the recent Interfaith Advocacy Days. They are especially interested in broadening the moral values debate to include issues such as:

* Economic Fairness

* Health Care

* Creation Care

* Human Rights

* Global Justice

* Arts and Culture

Coming up “on April 14, 2007 the Oregon Center for Christian Values and Oak Hills Christian Reformed Church are presenting a summit on faith and the environment. A key purpose of this event is to restore Christian leadership in caring for God’s creation by reframing Earth Day as a Christian event called ‘Creation Day,’ to be celebrated on Sunday, April 22.”

They note that “this is a day for Christians to meditate on our call to environmental stewardship, yet it is also an opportunity for us to uplift God as Creator through our example.”

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