Perhaps the most unusual of the meetings was one Obama had last week with a coalition of Christian religious leaders who urged him not to hammer the poor in trying to reduce the national debt.
It is, one participant said, “an unprecedented coalition,” including leaders from the Episcopal Church, the Salvation Army, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ.
It’s unprecedented because “we don’t agree on much else,” said John Carr of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
The coalition focuses on those Jesus called “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45), which speaks to obligations to look to the less fortunate. One goal is to get lawmakers to consider “What would Jesus cut?” (Actually, to ask the question is probably to answer it.)
The religious press has covered the coalition, which is called the “Circle of Protection,” but the lamestream media generally hasn’t written much about its activities, which have included prayer vigils on the Hill and fasts, some for 27 days. The group has been working the issue hard.
“Poor people don’t have an office on K Street,” said Galen Carey of the National Association of Evangelicals. “They don’t have lobbyists, so their voice is muted. That’s why it’s important for people of faith to step into the void.”
So how have the meetings on the Hill gone? “Most people say, ‘Yes, that’s a good point,’ ” Carey said. “We haven’t had anyone say that the goal is to take food out of hungry children’s mouths.” Well, that’s hopeful.
“A budget is a moral document,” said Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, a Christian social justice group. “We’re making choices,” he added, such as whether to cut $8.5 billion for low-income housing or whether to retain a similar amount in tax deductions for mortgages on vacation homes for the wealthy.
Everyone is watching the budget battle, Wallis said, including Wall Street, the private-jet industry, the banks and so on.
“But I think God is watching this, too.”
Mightier than the budget ax
Speaking of budget matters, everyone seems to agree on the need to watch spending and cut down on frills whenever possible. But some things are essential, such as pens bearing official agency logos.
So we find the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the Treasury Department’s watchdog for “promoting integrity in the administration of internal revenue laws,” putting out a purchase order two months back for $3,410 to buy some pens “with TIGTA’s logo.” The order, from the Bureau of Public Debt, is for 4,400 pens, we’re told, which are to be distributed to tax preparers.