Today President Obama signed the debt ceiling compromise with these words:
I’ve said it before; I will say it again: We can’t balance the budget on the backs of the very people who have borne the biggest brunt of this recession. We can’t make it tougher for young people to go to college, or ask seniors to pay more for health care, or ask scientists to give up on promising medical research because we couldn’t close a tax shelter for the most fortunate among us. Everyone is going to have to chip in. It’s only fair. That’s the principle I’ll be fighting for during the next phase of this process.
And in the coming months, I’ll continue also to fight for what the American people care most about: new jobs, higher wages and faster economic growth. While Washington has been absorbed in this debate about deficits, people across the country are asking what we can do to help the father looking for work. What are we going to do for the single mom who’s seen her hours cut back at the hospital? What are we going to do to make it easier for businesses to put up that “now hiring” sign?
For the record I called U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer - my representative - and urged him to vote for the compromise because default was simply not an option - no matter how bad the deal might have been. Rep. Blumenauer voted no.
But creating jobs in this economy just got a lot harder, as Think Progress notes:
The Economic Policy Institute, a top nonpartisan think tank, estimates that the deal struck this weekend to raise the nation’s debt limit will end up costing the economy 1.8 million jobs by 2012...
The agreement would reduce spending by at least $1 trillion over 10 years, but even the near-term cuts could shrink already sluggish GDP growth by 0.3% in 2012. According to EPI, the plan “not only erodes funding for public investments and safety-net spending, but also misses an important opportunity to address the lack of jobs.” In particular, the immediate spending cuts and the “failure to continue two key supports to the economy (the payroll tax holiday and emergency unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed) could lead to roughly 1.8 million fewer jobs in 2012.”
As joblessness, poverty and homelessness continue to grow the question is this: does President Obama have a plan to move us forward as a nation? No one questions the president's values or aspirations but he quickly needs to lay out a progressive platform that he'll fight for. Where will he draw a line in the sand to fight for those principles he believes in?
There needs to be a more forceful repudiation of the Tea Party movement which rejects traditional religious understandings of justice, compassion and the social contract that has made America a great nation.
People of faith need to continue to put pressure on both parties to address poverty and homelessness. I agree with what the National Council of Churches stated at Easter time:
...the debate over the national budget has ignored the most vulnerable members of our society -- millions of the working poor, the homeless, children, and disabled persons -- while political leaders of both parties jockey for tactical advantages as if they were more interested in pursuing power and office than a balanced budget.
As we continue to hold President Obama and members of Congress in prayer, let us pray that our nation addresses the sin of poverty and that those held captive by hopelessness find freedom from despair. It will take renewed efforts from us all to build up the Beloved Community we still dream of.