Saturday, June 3, 2017


Will the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget help you, your family, and our common good? Those are my questions as I pick my way through the Budget.

The Budget has been released. I’ve read the official White House FACT SHEET. I'll be quoting from it, start here:

“. . .we must restore the greatness of our Nation. . . .” (Emphasis mine.)

That’s the ultimate goal invoked for the Budget. It’s a moral goal, an over-riding moral good, and achieving that goal is the end toward which the national budget is crafted. (I note here that the budget and its goal is an extension of his 2016 presidential campaign, which ran under the same slogan.)

Well, as Jim Wallis of Sojourners says, “We say that a budget is a moral document.” 

I agree wholeheartedly with Wallis and in that vein I suggest that you ask, “Is the president’s budget proposal moving us toward greater common good?” That's the primary moral question for a national budget according to my ethics teachers. 

Let's get right down to earth here. I’ll pose some questions—like ones that you might have. Will the federal Budget help the common good? Let's bring the Budget down to where you live. Will the federal Budget help your family achieve peace and happiness as Americans?

Question: how many vacations (weekend vacations plus one- or two- week vacations) has your family taken in the past five years? Is your ability to afford vacations increasing, decreasing or stable?

Answer: To take my family as representative, our ability to afford vacations has not changed over the past ten years. I think the President doesn’t need to restore the nation to greatness in regard to this aspect of life.

Question: ask the same question in a different context. Are you more or less able to take paid vacation time than residents of other countries?

Answer: American workers get about 20 days paid vacation after 25 years of tenure. Workers in other developed nations get 20 days of paid vacation by law regardless of how many years they’ve worked. In this respect the U.S. has never achieved greatness.

So, is the White House proposing legal mandates for paid vacations? You can safely bet that the answer is “no.” But if the answer were “yes,” the U.S. might achieve greatness in regard to paid vacation time. The Budget fails this simple test.

Question: The Fact Sheet talks about supplying more jobs. So let’s look at a job-related question: is the unemployment rate higher, lower, or equal to the same rate for May, 2010, seven years ago?

Answer: In May 2017: the unemployment rate was reported as 4.3%.  In May 2010: unemployment rate was 9.6%. Chances are doubled that someone in your family was unemployed seven years ago than now. The American economy is doing very well, for persons seeking work. The Fact Sheet is airy fairy on unemployment.

Question: is the U.S. held down by a stagnant economy, as claimed in the Fact Sheet? I don’t experience our economy to be stagnant. Do you and your family? Are you living alright, or even living well, on your income right now? Do you own investments? Are they doing okay? Major stock indexes are making new highs. The Budget is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

Another Question the Fact Sheet omits, but it's pertinent: is your Mom making as much as your Dad?

Under Senators Bernie Sander’s and Senator Patty Murray’s “Raise the Wage Act 2017” proposal, “. . .over 11.6 million working parents would receive higher pay. Nearly a third of working mothers (7.6 million) would receive a raise and almost half of all working single mothers (3.6 million) would receive a raise.”   

If my wife were working for less than $15 an hour right now, I’d say that women workers are not getting equal pay. The statistics above prove that a lot of women are in that category and need help. The government should help the underpaid women but that obligation isn’t recognized in the 2018 proposed Budget. The Budget ignores a real prolem.

The 2018 Budget Fact Sheet is loaded with a lot of great value-words, like “Reform,” “Provide a Path,” Reduce Improper Payments” and so forth. Its skillful use such terms makes beguiling reading. But don't be deceived. Look under the surface, as my questions have forced me to do, and it seems like propaganda language because the budgetary facts don't line up with the high-falutin' terms.

The primary moral value, "the common good,"  is the most relevant value term for thinking about this or any federal budget. Does the budget move us closer to reaching the common good? 

The president’s budget will probably cost you and most other families. Unless your family happens to be in the elite highest income bracket. Then the budget will help you by lowering your federal income tax each year.

If you’re a single parent with three or more dependent children, you’ll actually pay more. 

Who will gain most from the budget and its associated tax proposal? Re. taxes due, the most wealthy and most corporations will benefit most. Corporate tax rates will be lowered from a top tax rate of 35% to 15%.

Pope Francis and other ethics teachers prompt us to ask how well is the government budget enhancing the common good”. 

"The Common Good" is forward-looking and includes justice as a principle.

In comparison, "Restoring the Greatness of our Nation" is backward-looking, vague and subject to multiple interpretations. What, exactly, does it mean? 

It allows that re-allocating the nation's wealth via tax savings toward the already-wealthy is its means to the end. 

In that respect, the Budget as a tool to increase the common good is a shocking step backward. 

Conclusion: whatever budget is ultimately adopted for 2018, it’s got to be a lot different than the president’s proposal or it won’t move us toward the common good.

P.S. I sure wish this post had been more fun for you to read and me to write. It's not enjoyable to be an American right now, watching the trashing of our common value system and the ripping-off of our lower and middle range classes via the federal Budget.  

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