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The Buddha and the Budget

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In which I offer you a couple of insights from wise people about what’s going on with the U.S. Congress and the federal budget, and share some ideas about what to do.

Quote #1, from Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Speak up for the poor both in this country and abroad. The budget cuts made by the House will have devastating impacts on those most in need of help. Help make the U.S. a country of compassion, not of savage selfishness. Urge the Senate to preserve the funding allocations that can help the poor.


Quote #2, from economist, Nobel Prize recipient, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman:

There are three things you need to know about the current budget debate. First, it’s essentially fraudulent. Second, most people posing as deficit hawks are faking it. Third, while President Obama hasn’t fully avoided the fraudulence, he’s less bad than his opponents — and he deserves much more credit for fiscal responsibility than he’s getting.

…by proposing sharp spending cuts right away, Republicans aren’t just going where the money isn’t, they’re also going when the money isn’t. Slashing spending while the economy is still deeply depressed is a recipe for slower economic growth, which means lower tax receipts — so any deficit reduction from G.O.P. cuts would be at least partly offset by lower revenue.

The whole budget debate, then, is a sham. House Republicans, in particular, are literally stealing food from the mouths of babes — nutritional aid to pregnant women and very young children is one of the items on their cutting block — so they can pose, falsely, as deficit hawks….

The bottom line, then, is that while the budget is all over the news, we’re not having a real debate; it’s all sound, fury, and posturing, telling us a lot about the cynicism of politicians but signifying nothing in terms of actual deficit reduction. And we shouldn’t indulge those politicians by pretending otherwise.

What to Do

“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.”
~Ethiopian Proverb

Be inspired by the massive display of peaceful people power in Wisconsin. Make your voice be heard and be visible.

1) Sign this petition:

2) Educate yourself and others on what’s really going on

Many Republicans in Congress are using this budget debate to their political benefit, as Krugman notes, and throwing up a smoke screen that obscures what else is going on.

For example, did you know that nearly two-thirds of U.S. corporations don’t pay any income taxes, instead using tax loopholes and offshore tax havens? This while many corporations enjoy record profits and taxpayer-funded bailouts.

If as much effort was made to increase revenue through collecting some of these corporate taxes as is being spent on cutting from those most in need, we’d be closer to a balanced budget.

Another great source of information is the National Priorities Project. Want to find out how your taxes are being spent? Try out this tool where you plug in the amount of taxes you paid and then can see what percentage goes toward things like military, health care, foreign aid, etc. Do these allocations align with your priorities and values?

3) Organize, organize, organize! February 26 Day of Action

The House of Representatives has voted on the budget. Congress is currently on a break; when the U.S. Senate re-convenes on February 28 it will discuss and vote on the budget. From now until then, it’s time to organize.

US Uncut is a new movement (inspired by UK Uncut) that is about taking action against unnecessary and unfair cuts to public services across the US. US Uncut is organizing an International Day of Action on Feb 26.

Check this web page to see if there is an action scheduled for your community. If not, you can sign up to start one and find lots of great resources on this page.


If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to visit my other website: The Liberated Life Project — a personal transformation blog with a social conscience.

About Maia

I've been practicing and studying the Buddha way since 1994, and exploring the question "What is engaged Buddhism?" since the late 90s. As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, I had the honor of meeting and working with many practitioners of engaged dharma, including Roshi Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Alan Senauke, and Robert Aitken Roshi. I write about socially engaged Buddhism on my blog, "The Jizo Chronicles," as well as on the theme of personal and collective freedom on my website, "The Liberated Life Project." Through my Five Directions Consulting, I offer support to individuals and organizations who aspire to integrate awareness into their work.

6 responses »

  1. Pingback: Maia Duerr on “The Buddha and the Budget” « Rev. Danny Fisher

  2. Mary-Anne Osullivan

    Thank you for reminding me that we all have a responsibility in the attainment of economic justice for each other

  3. this is alarming. if america could adopt compassion, it could change the world as we know it.

  4. Pingback: “The Buddha and the Budget — Continued!” « Rev. Danny Fisher

  5. Thanks for this, Maia — interesting to learn about US Uncut and its mother across the pond. Will definitely check them out!

    Here in Cali, where our Democrat governor and state politicians are routinely endangering people with austerity measures, too, it’s difficult for me to put much hope in strategies that are pro-Dem, and pro-institutional unions (which, as far as I know, are much the same throughout the country). The unions themselves have sold away much of their own power in Wisconsin and elsewhere, so even if the statewide movement “wins” and collective bargaining power is restored, I’m not sure the outcome will be so great? Similar with the anti-budget-cut measures, which remain utterly powerless against stopping US wars and economic imperialism abroad. How do you think these movements and organizing efforts stack up on the landscape of imperialism and the domestic evisceration of labor rights? Do you think they will snowball positively into something really big, on the scale of the massive institutional, ambient violence with which we live?

    Not trying to be a downer: of course, it’s plenty inspiring to see people banding together! I wish them the very best, and wish I could join in.

    As always, grateful for your engagement and insights, and for the way you pull together the comments and input of many sources! I’ve been thirsting to hear Buddhists talk about this, and maybe even make some connections between the human-exacerbated disaster in Japan and the general prioritizing of corporate/imperialist profits (incl. energy) over people, in the global order.

    And, too, enjoying following your adventures via the Interwebs. 🙂 Hope all is well in your evening.

    big hugs,


  6. FierceBuddhist


    I applaud you in this effort to bring the fiscal irresponsibility to light. Recently I co-founded a chapter of US UnCut in Chicago to help expose what corporations such as Bank of America are doing. Imagine you or I earning a huge profit 4.2 billion and paying NO TAXES! That is exactly what is going on.
    If BoA and others paid what they should there would be no reason to cut programs to those that need it.
    Great work.




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