IDEMA: The big lie of the election

Jun 6, 2012


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



Sure we all need to help to reduce the deficits but what about the misuse of our $$ by our president and congress who irresponsibly throw good money after bad (the stimulus funds, unwinnable wars), reward themselves with posh pensions and health care, not participating in those for the rest of the citizenry...2 and 2 equals 4 and that's how the majority of us determine what we have available to spend and how to live within our means...we cannot live via building up huge deficits in our households, nor should our government...It has all been a "big lie"...and we are paying for it...or our grandchildren will...maybe...There would be no debt to reduce if the govt. did not live beyone its means and spend what it doesn't have...Responsibility dictates that we not go the way of Spain, Greece...but that seems to be where we're heading and it's not the lack of sacrifice on the part of the average citizen that is leading to disaster...


while your intentions are well meaning, I think there are a few strawmen in this column that create some false equivalences to attempt to come to the conclusion if "both sides do it". yes, a large portion of households in the US do not pay federal income tax, due primarily to low wages and added tax credits (EIC, dependant deductions, medical expense deductions, etc). I'd hardly say these people aren't sacraficing. most still pay state income taxes, and are also hit harder by regressive taxes, such as sales and gasoline taxes. because of their low income, a larger portion of their income goes towards purchases of daily necessities, all of which, save groceries are taxed, so a larger percentage of their income is taxed. A lot of lower to moderate wage people need to live further away from work (in lower cost housing, such as say, someone making $10-12/hr ($20-24k annually) at a factory in Grand Haven, but can't afford housing costs here, so they commute in from muskegon), and they can't afford newer, more fuel efficient cars, so they pay a much larger portion of their income to gas (and gas taxes) to get back and forth to work. many households at or below the median income struggle to make ends meet, and have to choose between gas to get to work, needed prescriptions, and food to feed the family each month. they already have "skin in the game" and don't necessarily need an added burden of increasing their taxes. I'd also say the bottom 95% have been sacraficing, in the form of stagnant (actually slightly falling) real wages over the past 30 years dominated by the notion of "trickle down" economics, while ALL the gains have gone to the top 5% (with 90% of the gains going to the top 1%) of income earners. In the 50's, American CEO's made approximately 30 times the salary of their company's lowest paid worker. Now that number is in excess of 240 times.

I am disappointed with Obama being railroaded into agreeing to extend all the Bush tax cuts, instead of allowing the cuts for the top 5% (not 1% as you state) expire to the horrendously unthinkable Clintonian level, where the top tax bracket's marginal rate was 39%. Never mind that the top tax bracket under Eisenhower had a marginal rate of 90%....

Secondly, we are not in a debt crisis. that is the "Big Lie" . Yes, we need to reign in and control the growth of our spending. A little suprise, total government spending (local, state and federal) has actually decreased a fair amount over the last 4 years, and federal spending has been growing at a slower rate than it has in over 50 years. Why do we have a "crisis"? Lack of revenue, due to the drop in GDP vs. potential GDP caused by the Great Recession. The overall picture of a country's economic health as far as government debt is the ratio of debt to GDP. Spain was actually very conservative in the growth of government spending and debt, but the bottom completely fell out as far as revenues and GDP in Spain when the bubble burst. We're worse than we were 13 years ago, but with all ratios, it can be affected by changes in both the numerator and denominator. Our GDP fell off a cliff in 2007, while spending increased slightly with automatic stabilizers like unemployment insurance, as well as some of the bailouts and the stimulus. It is much easier to grow GDP than it is to cut spending, because face it, the 3 largest expenses of the federal government are Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and Defense spending. EVERYTHING else is small potatoes, relatively. While future debt is of concern when interest servicing that debt overwhelms the budget, it makes sense to grow GDP to reduce our debt to GDP ratio, as it will also increase tax revenues. With a more fair and balanced tax code, where millionaires like Mr. Romney or Mr. Buffet pay a higher total tax rate than their secretaries and landscapers, coupled with a more sane approach to providing health care for our citizens than the still messy hodgepodge that we still have after health insurance reform to control the growth of health care spending, we can begin to pay down the debt. Bill Clinton proved it. Had we stayed the course vs. engaging in tremendous tax cuts, two ill-advised wars, and the huge payoff to big pharma with the passage of Medicare Part D, the federal debt would have nearly been paid off by now, even with the Great Recession.


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