Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

A Call for Intergenerational Justice: A Dialogue (continued):

Ryan Streeter, Lisa Sharon Harper


March 11, 2011

Last week the Center for Public Justice along with Evangelicals for Social Action and several charter signatories, including Richard Mouw, H. Dean Trulear, and Stanley Carlson-Thies, issued A Call for Intergenerational Justice: A Christian Proposal on the American Debt Crisis. (You may also want to read our editorial statement on the Call from last week.) We asked a few signatories and non-signatories to write about their reasons for signing or not signing the Call.

YES: This effort merits attention and support.  As a Christian initiative, it brings a prophetic perspective to the policy debate. The founding signers write:

Reforming our culture of debt is not just the responsibility of government. A materialistic, live-for-the-moment mentality has seduced many Christians and many Americans to live beyond their means.

This effort, as I see it, argues two important points we should hear more frequently in our public debate about the debt crisis. First, our debt crisis is the result of mainstream people doing what we accused poor people of doing in the 1990s, which makes cutting aid to the poor a bit illogical if not morally questionable.  We are redistributing more money to middle and upper middle class people through Medicare and Social Security than we spend on myriad poverty programs. Our spending on poverty programs may be too much, too ineffective, and too wasteful, but they are not the source of our massive fiscal problems.

Second, we are in the midst of a crisis of intergenerational justice, whether people like to talk about it or not. Conservatives probably won’t like the term “intergenerational justice” because it sounds too much like “social justice.” But hardly anything is more conservative than seeing oneself as part of a community that transcends the span of one’s own life. To the degree we preoccupy ourselves with spending cuts in the discretionary part of the federal budget (just a little of one-third of all federal spending, excluding defense) and ignore entitlements, we are heaping unbearable weights on the backs of future generations.

Ryan Streeter is Editor of ConservativeHome.


NO: The enemy of our grand children’s grandchildren is not our current high debt. It is the 30 year reign of neoliberal free-market capitalism. Reagan’s chosen economic system ushered in corporate and bank deregulation, unprecedented tax cuts for the rich, relentless assaults on unions, and private monopolization of public services relied on by poor and working people. Since the day President Obama took office, he has made it clear: our man-made recession requires the acquisition of short term debt in order to balance the budget over the long haul. Everyone agrees: we need to balance the budget. The question is “How?” H.R.1, passed by House Republicans, reveals the Right’s answer.  In the midst of the greatest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, Republicans extended tax cuts to millionaires then passed a bill to slash Aid to Women Infants and Children (WIC), Teach for America, Head Start, and Community Health Centers, among other programs relied on by the poor. Debt is not our enemy; ideology is.  

—Lisa Sharon Harper is author of  Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican...or Democrat (The New Press), co-author of  Left, Right & Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (forthcoming Fall 2011) and executive director of New York Faith and Justice.



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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”