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February 21, 2011

Polling Evangelicals: Fix Deficit with Spending Cuts, Tax Increases

On Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution containing deep cuts for education, environment, and health care programs. All told, the resolution cuts $60 billion dollars from this year's budget. The resolution faces an uncertain future, as it must pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, and President Obama vowed to veto the House version of the bill.

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For many evangelical activists, the deficit is a top moral concern. But how important is the deficit to everyday evangelicals in the pews?

The Pew Research Center for People and the Press provided Christianity Today with a religious breakdown of questions from its December and February polls on the deficit and government spending. These polls show that while unemployment is a more pressing economic issue for evangelicals, they agree that the federal government should fix the deficit immediately and are willing to raise taxes (coupled with spending cuts) to do so.

When asked if the federal government should spend more money to create jobs or reduce the budget, nearly two-thirds of evangelicals said that the deficit was a more urgent problem (64 percent). Other Americans were more evenly split, with only 46 percent favoring deficit reduction.

This emphasis on the deficit likely reflects a distrust of government spending as a solution to unemployment. In a December survey, Pew found that 39 percent of evangelicals thought the job situation was the nation's most pressing economic problem. Only 22 percent named the deficit. This is similar to the views of other Americans, 45 percent of whom chose jobs and 19 percent chose the deficit.

In that same poll, however, 80 percent of evangelicals said the deficit was an issue that needs to be addressed now rather than waiting until after the economy improved. Other Americans were more willing to wait. Just over two-thirds of other Americans voiced a need to address the deficit immediately (68 percent).

Few Americans said that the deficit can be fixed by simply raising taxes. The vast majority favored some reductions in spending. The real question is whether the government should only cut spending or if it should be coupled with tax increases. A majority of both evangelicals (60 percent) and other Americans (66 percent) say that the federal government needs both tax increases and spending reductions.

Prison Fellowship Ministries founder Chuck Colson is one evangelical leader who finds taxes a necessary solution. Colson told BreakPoint listeners in December that neither Republicans nor Democrats were willing to cut the deficit. He pointed to the deal between President Obama and Republicans that included both an extension of tax cuts and increased spending, a deal he called “madness.”

“This country cannot continue this reckless, grossly immoral course of deeper and deeper deficits. We will go bankrupt. And then watch it all break loose in the markets, in the banks, and eventually in the streets,” Colson said. “Look, I don’t want to pay higher taxes any more than anybody else does. But I would certainly rather pay higher taxes than betray my kids and grandkids.”

Evangelicals are more likely to oppose tax increases than are other Americans. One-quarter of evangelicals favor spending reductions and oppose tax increases to pay for the deficit; only 14 percent of other Americans hold this position. 

Editor's Note: Pew identifies evangelicals as white, non-Hispanic Protestants who described themselves as "born-again or evangelical." Around 18 percent of Americans are evangelicals by this definition. Evangelicals are compared to all other Americans, including those who are not white.


Comments

Maybe if we stopped having so many wars we could afford to take care of our own people. There always seems to be money for more wars and weapons and defense spending at the expense of other needs. How about a tax to pay for our wars...if we ordinary people had to suffer a bit more we might be less eager to keep on having wars.

I cam here to say exactly what Sarah said. We need to cut the military budget and then we would have money to work with. It wouldn't hurt to increase taxes on the wealthiest 2% either.

Last time I looked, I had no say on whether we're in a war or not. We're in wars whether the President is republican or democrat. But let's just add more taxes, we must be to blame somehow. Remind me to call off the war in Serbia tomorrow. And then it's always fun to go after those
top 2% of wage earners. How about we go after you this time? After all, what right do people have to their own hard earned money? How dare people have the desire to spend their own money how they want to. We need others to oversee it. Since 50% of the people pay taxes and the other 50% are on the receiving end, let me guess which side you're on.

The upper 2% should be asked to do their share. No one benefitting from our tax dollars should be earning millions of dollars a year. We should not be giving special tax breaks to the entertainment industry by building stadiums and other venues for them to earn their millions. Tax breaks for companies like Walmart, Home Depot etc. should stop until their owners and executives quit insisting on millions of dollars a year in profits and salaries. Congress should pass laws that limit anybody benefitting from tax dollars to no more than the President of the U.S. makes in his salary. We can no longer afford to let the top 2% in this country to own more than the bottom 98%. STOP CORPORATE WELFARE.

Someone pays for Canadian health care with high taxes. And the government tells you what kind of health care you can have. When you can't get what you want, you just pop over the border to the States to get what you need. I see nothing Christian about it. I see people who either don't take care of themselves or are not allow to by their government. Either way it is neither freedom nor responsibility.

Forget about raising taxes; the ultra rich will just consult their team of accountants and lawyers and discover a new loop-hole or move their money to an area where it won't be affected by the new taxes.

The problem simple--entitlements are unsustainable and need to be cut, and cut drastically.