President Obama unveiled his American Jobs Act in a bold speech before a joint session of Congress last week. In short, the president offered up a moral vision of what America should be and in doing so he provided a stark contrast with the Tea Party Congress and their Ayn Rand devotees in the GOP leadership. Congress should pass the American Jobs Acts immediately and put politics aside to address the jobs crisis.
That might be wishful thinking. We all remember what U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell said in the aftermath of the 2010 elections. When asked what the #1 priority of Congressional republicans was he said to deny President Obama a second term. Not to create jobs. Not to address the deficit.
On the House side, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the budget committee, has said his inspiration in crafting policy comes from Any Rand who once said: "Nobody has ever given a reason why man should be his brothers' keeper." Rand rejected a basic Biblical concept but she also strongly rejected Christianity. Ryan hands out her books as gifts.
Christian leaders have looked at GOP budget proposals and said:
Budgets are moral documents, and how we reduce future deficits are historic and defining moral choices. As Christian leaders, we urge Congress and the administration to give moral priority to programs that protect the life and dignity of poor and vulnerable people in these difficult times, our broken economy, and our wounded world. It is the vocation and obligation of the church to speak and act on behalf of those Jesus called "the least of these." This is our calling, and we will strive to be faithful in carrying out this mission.
It is time to change course and embrace a vision of America where no one is left behind. Creating jobs now will lower the unemployment rate, reduce poverty and instill hope for the future.
In addition, the Americans Jobs Act proposed by President Obama will rehire laid off teachers - making sure young children get the support they need to learn in the classroom - and will put workers on the job fixing up crumbling schools, like the one my children attend that is nearly 75 years old and without seismic upgrades.
The American Jobs Act will also extend unemployment benefits to workers left jobless during a prolonged period of economic difficulty. We abandon these workers now and they will become the next wave of homeless families seeking shelter in facilities that are already full.
Our churches and other faith communities are overburdened by the human tidal wave of need that has been showing up since poverty began to explode in 2001 - the same time our government abandoned economic policies that reduced poverty in favor of tax cuts for the wealthiest and reductions in federal support for critical human service programs. Faith communities have opened shelters, built housing, organized volunteers, and hosted job fairs. But it is not enough.
Churches have never had resources equal to the government or equal to the task of dealing with all America's social ills. Nor should the faith community be expected to play such a role. Taking care of our neighbors is a task all Americans must share and government is the only vehicle we have that can marshal all the partners we need to meet the needs: business, labor, non-profits, students and the faith community. We need partnerships with government paying the bigger bills that create infrastructure, such as schools and affordable housing. President Obama was absolutely right when he said last week:
We have to ask ourselves, "What's the best way to grow the economy and create jobs?" Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can't afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can't afford to do both. This isn't political grandstanding. This isn't class warfare. This is simple math. These are real choices that we have to make. And I'm pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It's not even close. And it's time for us to do what's right for our future.
We have to decide who we are going to be as a people.
Will we continue to allow children to live homeless and in poverty?
Will we scrape Social Security?
Or will we be our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper and fight to make our national community a place where once again there is hope in the future and security for families?
We need the American Jobs Act now. Tell Congress.