The Fiscal Cliff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Dec. 9 issue of FaithLink focuses on the so-called “fiscal cliff” that confronts the U.S. government as 2012 draws to an end. FaithLink explains what the fiscal cliff is, the issues involved, and how will they affect daily life? FaithLink also addresses how Christian faith can guide us as we reflect on these issues.

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Dire rhetoric

The rhetoric about the financial situation is dire, points out the Rev. Alex Joyner, author of “The Fiscal Cliff.” “If you listen to politicians and news media outlets, they will tell you that we’re facing a convergence of events that have the potential to knock the country back into a recession and cripple both social programs and national defense,” he writes.

On Dec. 31, major tax cuts expire, and major spending cuts will be instituted if there is no agreement among U.S. political leaders.

On Dec. 31, major tax cuts expire, and major spending cuts will be instituted if there is no agreement among U.S. political leaders. This is the “fiscal cliff.”

FaithLink looks at why we are on it the cliff, how our lives and the United States change if we go over it, and what will happen if the plunge is avoided.

Joyner, pastor of Franktown United Methodist Church on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, explains that there are three big pieces to the fiscal cliff puzzle.

  1. Largest is the expiring tax-rate structure adopted during the Bush administration. These will return to pre-Bush-era levels in 2013.
  2. A second set of taxes to expire at the end of the year are payroll taxes. Joyner points out that if the pre-2010 rates return, this may be the most immediate way that most Americans experience effects of the fiscal cliff.
  3. The one “most entangled in political dynamics,” according to Joyner, is identified by the term “sequestration.” This is an across-the-board reduction in spending that would occur if Congress and President Obamas cannot agree to a 10-year plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit. Those reductions would amount to $87 billion and would be split equally between domestic and defense programs.

Topic areas

"The Fiscal Cliff" is broken into easily accessible topic areas. These include:


  • Frightening predictions
  • Understanding the elements of the fiscal cliff
  • The sequestration mechanism
  • The effects
  • Golden calves and crushing debt
  • Frustrations and faith
  • A brief history of U.S. debt
  • Core Bible passages
  • United Methodist perspective
  • Helpful links

United Methodist perspective

Joyner points out that the United Methodist Social Principles include a statement on “the responsibility of governments to develop and implement sound fiscal and monetary policies that provide for the economic life of individuals and corporate entities and that ensure full employment and adequate incomes with a minimum of inflation” (Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church). This statement on the Economic Community also supports “efforts to revise tax structures and to eliminate governmental support programs that now benefit the wealthy at the expense of other persons.”

On its website, the General Board of Church & Society states “how we spend our money –– as individuals, congregations, and communities –– is a reflection of who and what we value. Likewise, the federal budget is a statement of our nation’s shared priorities –– how we use the abundance God has given us to live into a vision of community and prosperity.”

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Recent FaithLink issues have addressed “Affirmative Action,” “Sandy,” “The Global Demand for Energy,” “Educating Women & Girls,” “ Stem Cell Research & Faith,” “Immigration Policy & Christian Faith,” “Poverty in the U.S. ” and “Prescription Drug Abuse.

A new, six-page FaithLink study guide is available each week. The next issue will be “Food & Celebration.” During the holiday season, family and friends gather and celebrate by sharing a sumptuous feast. FaithLink looks at what the benefits of enjoying food at such gatherings may be. It asks as Christians, how we can feast in ways that honor God and feed body and soul.

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Letter to the Editor