“What Would Jesus Cut?”

by Kenneth Hines on August 16, 2011

Evangelical progressives, led by Jim Wallis of Sojourners ministry and the author of the “God’s Politics Blog”, want you to feel guilty about the budget cuts in the 2011 Federal Budget passed by the Congress and called “historic” by the mainstream media.

Leading up to the vote, Wallis rallied the troops with his “What Would Jesus Cut” campaign saying that the cuts “would be devastating for domestic programs…”

Originally, the Republicans wanted to cut $61B from the 2011 budget. Democrats wanted to cut $4.7B. The final vote that came on April 8 (near the midnight hour narrowly averting a government shutdown) settled on the compromise figure of $38.5 billion.

Wallis contends that the cuts are immoral because they would cut programs that “provide basic nutrition, health, and opportunity to poor children and international aid programs that save lives every day.”

In a further attempt to impute guilt to fiscal conservatives and presuming to know the mind of God on these votes, he then calls people of faith to be, “united in prayer and committed to action, need to speak out for vulnerable people… We believe that the God who can change the hearts of kings can change the hearts of Congress.”

His position is that all budgets are moral documents (a term lacking precision leading to confusion according to Timothy Dalrymple of Patheos) and that the cuts will hurt the poor, sick, and needy. Therefore, any cuts aimed at the poor are immoral.

Hence his question: “What would Jesus cut?”

What is so interesting to me is this question: Although, $38.5 billion is a huge amount of money by any standard, what percentage of the overall budget is it? $38.5 is a whopping 1% of the $3.8 trillion budget in 2011!


This, in a feeble and laughable attempt to getting a $14 trillion deficit under control!

By this standard, Jim Wallis and his ilk would call budget cuts of any size immoral!

I would suggest that “WWJC” is the wrong question. A better and more fruitful question to the purveyors of the politics of guilt and pity is the one asked by William Voegeli says in his recent book, Never Enough, “When it comes to federal programs to aid the poor and needy, how much is enough?”

Even if you adjust for inflation and population growth the size of government human services programs is 15 times larger than it was in 1940. Total spending by the federal government went up 79% from 1995 to 2005 even before Obama took office! In 1962 the combined spending of just two agencies – Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development – went from under $3 billion to $750 billion in 2008 and projected to be over $1 trillion by 2014. And that’s just for two agencies out of hundreds! (See Historical Tables of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2010)

In Voegeli’s words, “Adjusted for inflation per capita federal welfare state spending was 77% higher in 2007 than it was when President Reagan took office.”

Despite the astronomical increase in spending and growth of government welfare programs, the rate of poverty remains about the same. In 1947 the percentage of Americans living in poverty was 33%. In 1959 it was down to 18.5%. By 1965, the year of President Johnson’s began his “war on poverty,” only 13.9% were classified as poor. This drop on the poverty rate covered all ages. The elderly poor had dropped from 57% in 1947 to 22.8% in 1965.

What happened when the Johnson “Great Society” social programs went into effect? The steady drop in the poverty rate came to a screeching halt! Since that time, despite spending trillions of dollars to fight poverty – you know, the way Jesus would do it according to the guilt manipulators – the poverty rate has remained steady or increased.

According to James Gwartney and Thomas S. McCaleb of the Cato Institute in their report, “Have Anti-Poverty Programs Increased Poverty?“:

“Just as government spending on various anti-poverty programs accelerated in the late 1960’s, progress against poverty came to a grinding halt. The official poverty rate reached a minimum in the late 1960’s. By 1980, the overall rate was 10.3%, virtually unchanged from the 10.0% rate of 1968.”

Even though the poverty rate continued to decrease among the elderly from 17.0% in 1970 to 9.1% in 1980,

“The rate for families headed by an individual aged 45-54 increased marginally, from 7.0 to 7.3%. In contrast, the poverty rate for the other age groups increased significantly. By 1980 the official poverty rate for families in the 15-24 age grouping had risen to 21.8%, up from 13.2% in 1968. Similarly, the incidence of poverty among families headed by persons 25-44 rose from 9.3 in 1968 to 11.8% in 1980.”

In addition, to the abysmal results of the “war on poverty”, ever since the mid-to-late 1970’s (right about the time the effects of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and the modern welfare state policies hit the economy) we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of homeless people – 300,000 to 600,000 at any given moment up to the present time. (Death By Liberalism – J.R. Dunn).

The point is this: In spite of the abysmal failure of the social programs intended to rescue the poor and needy, the Jim Wallis’s of the world continue to excoriate conservatives, tea party members, or anyone who calls for fiscal sanity by curtailing runaway government spending. Though these programs do not work, the guilt-mongers continue to berate our nation for not spending enough to supposedly help the poor. The fact is, for these political moralists, the federal government will never spend enough on the poor. Therefore, our budgets will always be immoral.

So how do we answer “what would Jesus cut”?

Perhaps we should bring a bit of realism to the table. Jesus himself said, “the poor you have with you always.” (Matthew 26:11) Far from expressing indifference to the needs of the poor, we are reminded here that there is no such thing as a utopian age when all the problems of the world are going to be solved.

And still, despite these facts, welfare state advocates say this is not enough. The rich should pay more and the poor should get more. When will it end? What is the tipping point? The answer is never. It is never enough. We will always be immorally unbalanced until everyone has exactly the same will never happen.

Here’s the question I want to ask. What is best for the poor and all our society? Is it to keep increasing taxes on the wealthy and give it to the poor?

The worst thing about the “never enough” mentality is that it is actually making us all poorer. If we continue with this attitude we will not only NOT be able to care for the needy among us but we will all be worse off.

Increased deficit spending, skyrocketing debt, profligate printing and infusion of dollars into the system, inevitable inflation, the debasing of the dollar – all tools to of the insatiable welfare state – will undermine our overall prosperity and rob us all of our financial future. It will leave no one able to help the poor because we’ll all be poor.

Instead of asking the rhetorically impossible question to answer “what would Jesus cut” from the welfare budget we need to ask what is the best strategy to help the poor not be poor anymore. That is the moral thing to ask.

So, what is the best strategy to help the poor not be poor anymore?

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