And what is that truth? That every American needs to sacrifice to deal with our debt crisis.
Politicians want to be popular, and telling people that they need to feel pain is not something neither President Obama nor former Gov. Romney wants to do. No profiles in courage here!
At the heart of the Christian gospel is the message of sacrifice. Not just Jesus' own sacrifice, but the sacrifice he called upon his followers to make: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. ... For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?" (Luke 9:24-25).
The metaphor of the cross comes from everyday life in Israel; condemned enemies of the state would carry a cross or part of it to his place of crucifixion. So "the cross" was a powerful image of sacrifice.
What images of sacrifice are being offered by our candidates for president? Even when we had a stage full of them during the early debates, they promised goodies like even more tax cuts, instead of being honest about what is necessary to avoid the pitfalls of Greece or Spain.
Mitt Romney endorses the Ryan budget, which offers even more tax cuts for the wealthy, and more money for defense than even the military wants. So, in essence, Romney is arguing for more tax cuts for people like himself, and more government spending for weapons we don't need — at the expense of social programs such as food stamps.
President Obama wants the 1 percenters to pay more taxes along with other wealthy people, but he fails to demand sacrifices from the rest of us Americans. More than 50 percent of Americans pay no income tax at all. It is a failure of leadership not to ask them to sacrifice, too — especially when rich people simply do not have enough money, even if the government got it all, to make much of a dent in our $15 trillion debt.
All the Bush (and now Obama) tax cuts must go, which then would bring in about $4 trillion toward debt reduction. Then the tax code must be revised to where all Americans have "skin in the game," not just the wealthy, in terms of debt reduction.
It is an insult to all Americans when our leaders do not ask everyone to sacrifice for a crisis that could bring down our government, or at least sink it in red ink.
The World War II generation knew what sacrifice meant. Tires were rationed, along with sugar, metals and other goods. Silk stockings disappeared for women. War bonds were purchased cheerfully. Babe Ruth wanted to buy $100,000 worth, but was told he could only buy $50,000, so he spread his purchase over two years. People swamped the recruiting offices for the military.
Today, few serve in the military; even fewer among those politicians who send our sons and daughters off to wars. Neither Romney nor Obama served in the military. So, in war, as in debt reduction, the sacrifice is not being widely shared. That is morally wrong!
It is the responsibility of the Church to preach sacrifice, as Jesus commanded; and it is up to all of us to apply that message to our most pressing problem, our national debt. As in Jesus' day, most people today want to gain the world in endless materialism instead of sacrificing for the greater good. That will be our gravest crime on future generations if we keep on spending money we don't have while kicking the can of debt reduction down the road.
Let us all pray that both President Obama and Romney will find the courage to speak the truth instead of perpetuating "the big lie," that we all don't need to sacrifice.
— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune community columnist