Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who's holding the safety net?

Seems the "six billion dollar question" floating around at the local and national political level in the US is who is responsible to care for those in need?  The political right have mocked those on the left for supporting a "nanny state".  The "nanny budget" supports things like caring for those with physical disabilities, the mentally ill, sick and homeless.  This social services budget, significant as it is, pails in comparison to nearly 60 percent of the nation's budget dedicated to military spending.

The Reverend James Gertmenian wrote a thoughtful article on our diminished support for the shared good in a MN Post article "A culture of contempt: The selfishness of our lesser natures has taken over vast regions of the national soul."  He notes that the ideal of a common good has been replaced by hyper-individualism, libertarian self-involvment, ideological purity and anti-intellectual fervor.  As a person of faith Rev. Gertmenian is distraught that the root of this burgeoning culture of disrespect for the poor, earth, science and the Other is being claimed by some to be rooted in Christianity.

While religious organizations, family and neighbors can and should all care for others in need, they are  in no position to take on the significant role that our tax supported government plays in assuring the care for the most vulnerable of society.  Places of worship and nonprofits have helped with food shelfs and emergency shelters, etc, however this level of support is minuscule in comparison to the government's role in providing aid.  Even many of the "faith based" charities providing support to those in need, such as Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, and the Salvation Army receive significant government funding.

Given the current economic crisis it appears likely that severe cuts will be occurring, and will most likely be impacting the most vulnerable within our society, who don't have well paid lobbyist in Washington advocating for their bottom lines. In order for the government's role supporting the safety net to continue  during this economic downturn is more important than ever that citizens remind their political leaders of this responsibility. Heading up our churches stewardship drive this year I know with great confidence that we are in no way prepared to take over the government's role in providing social services to those in our community.  Now if we could just levy taxes on our members.....  ;-)

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