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April 13, 2011



I continue to be outraged by the petty bickering going on in Washington as a cover to keep Americans from knowing that both sides are not serious about governing all citizens fairly, regardless of income. I had a discussion recently with the CEO of a network of Community Action agencies and I asked specifically about Health Centers. While he thinks some of the other services funded by the Block Grant might take a hit, he thinks the Health Centers will continue to be funded through a different mechanism. I hope he is right because the Health Center in our community is vital

chris daley

I recently learned an important reflection technique from Rosbeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School. She developed the metaphor of the zoom button of our digital camera to give me a dynamic, multi-dimensional perspective on issues. Zoom in, and get a close look at select details—perhaps too close to make sense of them. Zoom out, and see the big picture—but perhaps miss some subtleties and nuances.
Both perspectives—worm’s-eye and bird’s-eye—have virtues and pathologies, that when combined give us a fuller perspective on an issue.
When I apply this teaching to this blog’s challenge, I arrive at two sets of questions. I will share my zoom out reflections, as the contributions to date would seem to be of the zoom in type.
Is my definition of morality all encompassing?
How do I balance the pressing needs all around versus increasing the debt load and passing the bill to the next generation?
How do we renegotiate our social contracts given the constraints of resources and demography?
What is the ethics of end of life issues and the consumption of many resources given the leveraging of technology?
How has the church informed the country and the leadership regarding the increasingly tough choices our fallible leaders have to make under the constant glare of the world?
How can the church help in reducing the hype in our conversations and inject a spirit of hope?


Chris, your questions make good sense and I am prepared to cut anything and anywhere in the budgets of Federal, state and local governments except when it hurts people who are already suffering from poverty, disability, etc. It is never moral, not matter what economic conditions, we face to take bread out of the mouths of the starving nor to force women and chldren to jump into the icy waters so the rest of us can survive.

I agree that we need to make major adjustments. Frankly, I think one of them is to go to a single-payer health care system. That would trim the cost of health care across the board by about 50 percent. It might mean longer waits and rationing (although all of the Canadians I talk to say that is not true), but under the economic crisis we face, that is OK with me.

What I think is immoral about the compromise that the President and the Congressional leaders came to is the way it does not require the wealthy and powerful and comfortable (I include myself) to sacrifice, but makes inhumane demands on those too poor and powerless to protect themselves. My concern was specifically triggered by cuts in funding for community clinics that serve poor people and senior citizens in areas (mostly urban) where conventional health care cannot establish itself because there is not enough money to be made. How is it moral to shut down these clinics, leaving people with no althernative source of health care, while we are still protecting the lowest tax rates in the industrialized world?


Totally agreed on our moral imperative to support and defend the vulnerable and the voiceless!!!

Where the debate must be enjoined is in the means of funding our commitments going forward. I will stay in the zoom out mode as we will need to recreate a different paradigm to thrive. This will involve a country wide commitment. The governing tax policy will be a most important moral document.

When I examine the tax policy history, here is my understanding:
In 1980, the top 1 percent of earners paid 19 percent of income taxes, and the bottom half of earners paid 7.1 percent. A decade later, with a lower maximum rate, the top 1 percent paid 25 percent of taxes, while the bottom earners paid just 5.8 percent. By 2008, top earners paid 38 percent of taxes, the bottom half 2.7 percent. If the logic of this progression overcome our natural instinct, we will craft an enlighten tax policy that will not encourage capital flight.

The tax policy impacts the innovation initiatives that will be needed to create the wealth to fund the common good.

Next the entitlement programs need the 4 Rs to be sustainable -rethink, reinvigorate, react, and reinvent instead of being treated as political hot potatoes.

Back in the sixties, entitlements consumed around a third of the budget. Presently, they consume two thirds of the budget, quickly heading to three thirds given the demographic pressures. This is before the impact of the newly added healthcare entitlement takes effect.

I look forward to the 2012 budget debate to see how we can put our country on a sustainable path, while protecting our values.


I frankly don't know if one tax policy or another would, in fact, encourage capital flight. And I think that capital flight is bad for everyone in the larger view.

I must ask you this question: How does your percentage of the taxes data compare with the percentage of the wealth that each category held? I have seen data that shows that a larger and larger share of the wealth is migrating to a small percentage of the population. Would not this factor alone account for at least some of the changes that you chart?

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