In the 2008 World Day of Peace message Pope Benedict XVI dedicates his message to the concept of the human family. In this message the Pope suggests that family values offer the best paradigm for prioritizing our own social values. His reminder to us is that “humanity is one great family” and he the goes on to juxtapose the way we address and prioritize family issues with the way we ought to address and prioritize social issues.
This week, our nation is in the midst of addressing the critical issue of our budget and national economy. While both parties recognize that we have to tighten our belt they dramatically disagree on how they should responsibly address our financial situation. The metaphor that is offered from President Obama is that we need to use a scalpel to trim the budget while investing towards the future while the GOP is suggesting bringing an axe to the current budget including many of their social service programs. The question we are left with is what the responsible path for addressing this critical issue is? Pope Benedict is suggesting that the same Catholic values that inform us on how we ought to take care of our own family’s financial well being are very much relevant to the situation of how we should approach our own national economy.
An essential condition for peace within individual families is that they should be built upon the solid foundation of shared spiritual and ethical values. Yet it must be added that the family experiences authentic peace when no one lacks what is needed, and when the family patrimony—the fruit of the labour of some, the savings of others, and the active cooperation of all—is well-managed in a spirit of solidarity, without extravagance and without waste. …
Something similar must be said for that other family which is humanity as a whole. The human family, which today is increasingly unified as a result of globalization, also needs, in addition to a foundation of shared values, an economy capable of responding effectively to the requirements of a common good which is now planetary in scope. Here too, a comparison with the natural family proves helpful. Honest and straightforward relationships need to be promoted between individual persons and between peoples, thus enabling everyone to cooperate on a just and equal footing. Efforts must also be made to ensure a prudent use of resources and an equitable distribution of wealth.
As a family man who has to deal with an uncertain financial future I can very much resonate with Pope Benedict’s perspective on financial prioritization. We are tightening our belt by making judgments on what are superfluous spending and what are necessary investments. Certain food products are luxuries. Cable, book clubs, movies and music products are luxuries that we also cut. Education, healthcare, and social programs for the children are not luxuries. For us they are necessary investments for a future that we have deemed important for our children. I understand the distinction of necessary investments for the social welfare of my family and superfluous spending that we are most definitely cutting. Another budgetary need that we continue to have is our own professional development to help both my wife and I as we hope to improve our career opportunities during a challenging economy.
In my humble opinion President Obama makes a similar distinction between necessary investments and superfluous spending. Education, public transportation, technological development and infrastructure are necessary investments for the future of our own nation’s economic and social development. The GOP proposal does not make this distinction. We may have to trim some of our social services but bringing the axe on these social investments is a dangerous and irresponsible step for the future of our own economic future. This post from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities demonstrates the danger of many of the GOP’s proposed budgetary cuts: House GOP Would Decimate Social Services.
In these times we are called to be financially responsible and make an honest distinction between superfluous spending and necessary investments. My family considers education, healthcare, social programs and domestic maintenance to be necessary investments for the future of our family’s well being. Do you?