From the Revd Adrian
Sir, - With the Chancellor's
Budget approaching, and in the light of many recent articles and
letters in the Church Times lamenting the effects of
government cuts, especially on towns and cities in the north, are
there alternatives to the painful austerity programme? Solutions
fall into four categories:
First, increase borrowing
beyond the current £120 billion per year to finance new government
expenditure. This is party-political territory. Christians should,
however, have a view on how much debt it is fair to burden the next
generation with. As a percentage of GDP, national debt is already
at a post-war high.
Second, divert money from
other areas of government expenditure towards the most vulnerable.
Christians may hate the idea of spending millions on weapons when
Mrs Smith has to wait for her operation. But other areas of
expenditure have already been heavily cut. Health and social
security consume most taxes anyway. With an ageing population, the
bill is rising annually.
Third, increase taxes on the
private sector and the wealthy. Christians applaud the principle of
the rich helping the poor. But, in today's global marketplace, any
government must perform a fine balancing act. Raising taxes too
much could damage competitiveness, reduce incentives to expand
business and create fresh wealth, plunge us into recession, and
thus reduce tax income.
Fourth, increase the size of
the economy by encouraging wealth- creation and innovation. This
sounds attractive. The larger the cake, the more there is to share.
But rising food, fuel, and commodity prices remind us that the
earth has finite resources. Christian environmental concern needs
to recognise the impact of every country's wanting to grow its
economy, year on year.
It is natural for clerics
and politicians to want to draw attention to the plight of the
people whom they serve. Every victim of economic austerity is a
tragedy. But merely complaining achieves little. There needs to be
a more honest Christian discussion about solutions, which are often
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Sir, - Professor Bob
Holman's article (Comment, 1 March)
could not have been more timely than the very weekend when, in all
seriousness, a government Minister proposed that the shortfall in
the defence budget should be made good from the already totally
inadequate budget for welfare. Those tax-free bonuses and sky-high
salaries should be his target.
Professor Holman's article
was inspiring. Let us, the Churches, adopt this truly Christian
theology - and act accordingly.
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