Several times in his column Wallis says things like this:
We reminded ourselves that people of faith must evaluate big decisions on issues like a budget by how they impact the most vulnerable.Well, yes, but there are other questions of justice which are also "fair and biblical" which need to be answered as well. Until they are statements like Wallis' are pretty much meaningless. Here are some examples:
We urged the president to protect programs for low-income people in the ongoing budget and deficit debate, and in any deal concerning the debt ceiling and default crisis. In an engaging back and forth conversation, the president and faith leaders discussed how we can get our fiscal house in order without doing so on the backs of those who are most vulnerable. We shared the concern that the deficit must be cut in a way that protects the safety net, and struggling families and children, and maintains our national investments in the future of all of us.
[P]rograms serving poor and hungry people should be protected and exempted from any budget cuts.
We agreed that we need both fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. Those already hurting should not be made to hurt more, and those doing well should do their part in sacrificing.
Our goal is simply this: Whenever a new budget or deficit reduction proposal is put forth, somebody should ask how it will impact the poorest and most vulnerable. This is a biblical question, a fair question, and a question of justice.
What exactly is a "fair share" from those who are doing well? What percentage of one's income is a just contribution to the welfare of the poor? Ten percent? Twenty percent? The highest income tax bracket in this country is 35% on those making more than $379,000. Is that a just figure? Should it be higher? If so, why?These are questions that always seemed to be glossed over when people like Wallis wax eloquent about our moral duties to the poor. Everyone agrees that there should be "shared sacrifice" and that we need to "help the poor", but what exactly these words mean is left very, very fuzzy, and Wallis doesn't do anything, at least in this recent essay, to help clear things up.
How much of the burden should the wealthy be justly expected to bear? The top 1% of income earners (those who earn $410,000 or more) currently pay over 40% of the federal income taxes in this country. Is that a "fair share"? If not, would it be more fair for them to bear a greater percentage of the burden? Why? And what effect would it have on the working poor if small businesses making over $250,000 had their taxes raised?
What, specifically, is our government's obligation to the poor? How much of our income should we be compelled to allocate toward helping them? Should the poor be subsidized to the point where they have as much of the world's goods as everyone else?
Are there really any poor in America, anyway? Should people who have electricity, air conditioning, refrigeration, heated houses, indoor plumbing, cars, televisions, cell phones, computers, and access to food, shelter, schools, medical care etc. be considered poor just because they don't have as many of these things as others do? How much more do we owe them, especially given that poverty in America is largely a function of personal choices that people make (e.g. the choice to drop out of school, to use drugs and alcohol, to not get married before one has children, to not develop a disciplined work ethic, etc.).