A Call for Intergenerational Justice: A Christian Proposal for the American Debt Crisis
The Center for Public Justice, in cooperation with Evangelicals for Social Action, has launched a national movement to demand that Washington end our ongoing budget deficits—and do it in a way that helps, not hurts, poor people at home and abroad.
“A Call for Intergenerational Justice” is the start of a biblically grounded movement in which grandparents, grandchildren and everyone in between can join hands to promote a just solution to our debt crisis.
→ View a video of a panel discussion about the "Call"
March 3, 2011
A Call for Intergenerational Justice:
A Christian Proposal for the American Debt Crisis
For a generation and more, we Americans have been living beyond our means. Our growing national debt now puts us on a path towards economic disaster. If unchanged, our current culture of debt threatens to bankrupt us both economically and morally. The biblical call to stewardship demands that we pass on an economic order in which our children and their children can flourish.
Today’s federal debts threaten not only the present generation, but also our children and generations yet unborn. Intergenerational justice demands that one generation must not benefit or suffer unfairly at the cost of another.
Who Is Responsible?
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. Churches must disciple their members toward stewardship, justice, and concern for the poor. Families must change their thinking and spending. Businesses must be concerned not only with short–term corporate profits but also with long–term community well-being and the common good. But government does have the primary responsibility to reverse at least one part of our mad rush to economic disaster—our ever-increasing government debt.
In our democratic republic citizens must tell elected officials that we recognize our duty to temper our wants and even sacrifice with regard to some of our legitimate desires: for the sake of frugal stewardship and long-term sustainability of our economy, for the sake of continuing governmental care for the poor and weak, and for the sake of doing justice to our children and our children’s children.
How our governments and we as citizens together decide to reverse the trend of our ever-growing government debt is crucial. Some proposals place much of the burden on the poor. To reduce our federal debt at the expense of our poorest fellow citizens would be a violation of the biblical teaching that God has a special concern for the poor. Effective programs that prevent hunger and suffering and empower poorer members of society must continue and be adequately funded.
Our Core Proposals
We do not endorse any detailed agenda. Experts disagree. But it is clear that a bipartisan agreement must include the following basic elements:
- We must cut federal spending. That will include corporate and agricultural subsidies, the defense budget and salary increases of federal employees. But it does not mean cutting effective programs that empower poor Americans or contribute internationally to economic development or the advancement of health. Neither does it mean neglecting appropriate investments in things like education and infrastructure.
- We must control healthcare expenses. This is a most difficult problem and it cannot be ignored. We must find a way simultaneously to respect individual choice, ensure quality health care for everyone, and stop spending an ever-higher percent of our GDP on medical costs. Everyone must be willing to sacrifice.
- We must make Social Security sustainable. We can slowly increase the retirement age, modestly reduce benefits for more wealthy seniors, and increase the amount of income taxed to pay for Social Security.
- We must reform the tax code. We should remove many special exemptions, end many special subsidies, and keep the tax code progressive.
Moved by the seriousness of the debt crisis and the biblical summons to intergenerational justice, we pledge to join a trans-partisan, intergenerational movement of citizens that insists that government exercise both fiscal frugality and compassionate action for the sake of the long-term sustainability of our political economy—and for an economy of care. All must sacrifice—time, wealth, entitlements—for the common good. To the young, we say: It is your credit card that will receive the additional trillions of dollars of debt—unless we quickly end ongoing federal budget deficits. To parents and grandparents, we say: We must give up some things so our children can flourish. All of us now say: We join together to answer the call to intergenerational justice.
—Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action
—Gideon Strauss, CEO, Center for Public Justice