My father worked as a public school teacher. My mother worked with senior citizens. They were always frustrated by the tendency of churches to present Jesus as an elephant. As I pastor over the years, I’ve met Christians who lean more donkey-ish and some more elephant-ish. We know we are hearing the true meaning of the Scriptures when the Word challenges all political assumptions. Jesus is not a donkey. He is not an elephant. He is a lion. He is the King of kings, the Lion of Judah. That makes Him unsafe for all who attempt to fashion Him into their image. I love the scene from Narnia when Lucy comes face to face with Him.
‘Then, he isn’t safe?’ asked Lucy.
‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver. ‘Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’
As a Lion, the Scriptures challenge both greed and entitlement. It challenges overspending, and hoarding. As C.S. Lewis said,
“Christianity has not, and does not profess to have, a detailed political program for applying ‘do unto others’ to a particular society at a particular moment. It could not have. It is meant for all men at all times, and the particular program which suited one place or time would not suit another.” ~C.S. Lewis in Social Morality.
In the name of bipartisanship, many have attempted to either tame the lion and put him in their camp or pretend the lion is cowering in the corner with nothing to say about issues with political implications. Both approaches turn the lion into a mouse.
Ironically, as issues like the debt ceiling are debated in Washington D.C., the Bible challenges both approaches. The debt problem is far, far, far worse than either Republicans or Democrats admit. David Walker, the chief comptroller of the United States during both Red and Blue Administrations, is calling out to the American public. He is warning that we need a much, much more radical approach than either side is proposing. The only way to get back to health will be radical. The only way to avoid the consequences of the Roman Empire and Weimar Republic will be an “all of the above” approach. We will need significant entitlement reform. We will need radical warfare reform returning to Biblical ideas and criteria of what constitutes as “just war.” We will need to increase taxes. While both political sides debate “how much to borrow” from China. The Bible taught that nations should NOT borrow from other nations. See Deuteronomy 15:6.
6 For the LORD your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you.
Here is an interview from January 2011 on NPR where he calls upon all Americans to see behind the curtain. If you have not seen his bipartisan video called, “IOUSA” check it out (but know you may not sleep tonight). And this video is two years out of date.
AMOS: Our next guest is likely to agree with that statement. He’s David Walker, and he was the comptroller of the United States and CEO of the Government Accountability Office from 1998 until 2008. He’s currently the President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and he’s the scariest CPA who’s not doing your taxes.
After taking his message on the road, Walker has just written a manifesto of sorts, “Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility.” Welcome to the program.
MR. DAVID WALKER (President and CEO, Peter G. Peterson Foundation): Deborah, good to be with you. And I love that movie “Dave,” and it’s a great name, too.
AMOS: So you have to agree, then, with Murray Blum, the fictional accountant in the movie, that the real government’s books are in trouble.
MR. WALKER: There’s no question. Our financial condition is much worse than advertised. We face large and growing structural deficits that threaten our future, and we need to start doing something about them.
AMOS: Now, you’ve written in your book that there is a moment coming soon when most of the government budget is going to go to servicing debt.
MR. WALKER: That’s correct. The GAO, under its latest simulation, said that within 12 years, without an increase in interest rates, the single-largest line item in the federal budget would be interest on the federal debt. That means more than defense, more than Social Security, more than Medicare, and that’s obviously not acceptable.
AMOS: You point out that when President Clinton left office, we had a balanced budget and even a surplus. So how did it get so bad so quickly?
MR. WALKER: People lost control. The money burned a hole in their pocket, through the floor and half way through the planet. Basically, the statutory budget controls that we had in place in the 1990s through President George Herbert Walker Bush, President Clinton, and the early part of the Bush 43 administration, they expired at the end of 2002 and things got totally out of control after that.
AMOS: What do you think that the specific dangers are of running a deficit this high?
MR. WALKER: It’s OK to run a deficit in the short term, when you’re in a recession, when you face serious challenges dealing with housing and financial markets. It’s not the current deficit that I’m concerned about. It’s the structural deficit that will exist whether the economy’s growing, whether or not we’re at war, no matter what the circumstances are. The dangers are that we end up losing the confidence of our foreign lenders. They end up wanting to charge much higher interest rates. The dollar declines dramatically, and the effect on that on the budget, on the economy and on, frankly, Americans, the cost of credit and other things is not a positive sight.
AMOS: You write that the seriousness of this is for future generations, that there is no way for children and grandchildren, that they can avoid higher taxes. We do. How does that work?
MR. WALKER: There are two kinds of taxes: current taxes and deferred taxes. Deficits, especially unreasonable deficits, represent deferred taxes on our children and grandchildren with interest. That’s reality, and it’s also math.
AMOS: Does that mean that at some future date, no matter what, that Congress is going to have to raise taxes to pay for what we’re spending now?
MR. WALKER: There’s absolutely no question that taxes are going to have to go up. When you look at the promises that have been made for Medicare, for example, $38 trillion underfunded, Social Security $7.7 trillion underfunded, plus military and civilian pensions and retiree health care, to make the numbers work, you have to restructure those programs, constrain spending, and raise revenues.
AMOS: Almost every one of your solutions includes a blue ribbon panel, and I get the idea that you’re suggesting that you don’t quite trust the politicians to do this.
MR. WALKER: Ultimately, elected officials will have a vote. However, the regular order is broken. Washington can’t make progress on a single difficult issue at a time, much less multiple at once. And we’re in a situation now where we have to make progress on budget controls, Social Security, health care and taxes quickly before we lose the confidence of our foreign lenders.
AMOS: Your polls show that Americans actually take this seriously, that they think the budget deficit and the dangers are more important than global warming and even health care reform. But those very politicians, in a broken system, are the ones who would have to convince people to do things like have their health care at work taxed or have benefits from Social Security go down. How does that work? How do you get politicians to sell the kind of ideas that actually get people turned out of office?
MR. WALKER: Well, first, the American people are ahead of their politicians, as typically is the case. Eighty percent of Americans believe that escalating deficits and debts should be a higher priority. Seventy percent of Americans believe we need some type of special blue ribbon commission to be able to deal with it. But ultimately, the elected officials are going to have to make a decision on the recommendations to the commission, whether to go with them or not, and the President will have to decide whether to sign or veto it.
AMOS: When you look at how health care – that overall process – went, does that make you more or less optimistic that the American government and the American system can implement these kind of broad changes that you’re talking about?
MR. WALKER: Well, the current health care reform bill is really not a health care reform bill. It’s a health care coverage expansion bill, and the only reason that people are talking about cost is because the President rightfully said he wanted to make sure that it was deficit neutral. The problem is that this country has $38 trillion of unfunded promises for Medicare already.
So our health care house is already mortgaged for more than it’s worth, and all we’re doing is adding a new wing onto it. So it doesn’t give me great confidence. And my question is, when are we going to start dealing with the real problems with health care costs that threaten to bankrupt the country and to make sure that we can deliver on the promises that we make?
AMOS: No one argues that what you’re talking about is crucially important, but we’re in an even bigger financial hole. We’re in a recession. So how do you talk about balancing the budget when government spending is the very thing that the economy has needed to sort of stir jobs and to keep the country afloat?
MR. WALKER: I think it’s very important to separate the short term from the structural. It’s understandable to run deficits when you have a recession, a depression or unprecedented financial services and housing-type of challenges and crises that we’ve had. That’s not what I’m concerned about. We will ultimately turn the economy around, but what we have to do is deal with the large known and growing structural deficits that are growing with the passage of time, and they are not long term anymore. They are within the horizon. They are going to hit our shores and we are not prepared.
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