The Genesis account of creation tells us that from the beginning, humanity was created to work.
God puts Adam in the garden to "work and watch over it." The Scripture provides an insight into our nature: We are all, man and woman, called into this life to find our vocation, the work that is uniquely ours and contributes to the flourishing of the wider community.
This explains why we are naturally so troubled about what appear to be merely economic problems: intractable unemployment and the various schemes put forth by policy makers to spur job creation. But behind the question is the reality that we naturally prefer people to be productive contributors to our economic life.
How we accomplish that is the subject of the debate over our unsustainable budget and debt trajectory. Do we choose those policies that make room for more freedom in the market, unleashing the creative potential of the American worker, business owner and entrepreneur? Or do we default, once more, to political and bureaucratic measures that require heavier burdens of taxation and regulation?
A government that actively sustains poverty by removing natural incentives to work is gravely in the wrong. Such government is without its essential anchor, which is that understanding of humanity as creative and productive.
The super committee created by Congress' debt-ceiling compromise has begun its work to find $1.5 trillion in federal spending cuts ($2 trillion if the committee accepts the cuts corresponding to President Obama's proposed stimulus). Even after this reduction, though, the nation's debt will be unacceptably burdensome.
In 2011, for the first time since World War II, the amount of our total federal debt will surpass annual GDP. This is perilous, because economic capacity begins to be seriously affected when a country's debt reaches 80 percent of GDP.
The super committee should begin by cutting social programs that perpetuate cycles of poverty. The only way to rise from poverty is to contribute to economic activity – a job is the best poverty program ever devised.
The federal government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in the "War on Poverty" since Lyndon B. Johnson declared it, but we have next to nothing to show for the expense. And the agenda put forward by the religious left devalues the human person, treating the poor as objects of charity rather than as economic contributors.
As reform of federal spending is undertaken, all cuts must be made with an eye to freeing citizens of every class to pursue their economic potential...
The federal government does have real obligations to current generations that must be met. But without substantive reform of our largest entitlement programs, the country's long-term fiscal health cannot be secured.
We cannot leave future generations with the full burden of our debt, which becomes a heavier weight the longer it is left unaddressed.
Congress must remember that economic growth is driven by innovations – by improvements in how the population produces goods and delivers them. The incentives caused by an expanding government run counter to economic growth because they run counter to human nature.
As reform of federal spending is undertaken, all cuts must be made with an eye to freeing citizens of every class to pursue their economic potential – to engage in the kind of dignified work that is essential to our nature, properly understood.
Father Robert A. Sirico, "Jobs and Deficits: The Moral Equation." Pittsburgh-Tribune Review (September 28, 2011).
Reprinted with permission of the author Rev. Robert A. Sirico and the Acton Institute.
Father Sirico is president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Mich. Father Sirico is often called upon by members of the broadcast media for statements regarding economics, civil rights, and issues of religious concern. He is the author or co-author of Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, The Call of the Entrepreneur Study Guide, Catholicism Developing Social Teaching, The Free Person and the Free Economy: A Personalist View of Market Economics, Capitalism, Morality & Markets, Skepticism, Faith, and Freedom, A Moral Basis for Liberty, Catholicism's Developing Social Teaching, and Environmentalism and its Spiritual Implications.Copyright © 2011 Father Robert Sirico
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