Acton Institute Powerblog

Rev Sirico: Budget, Debt, and Morality

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Rev. Sirico was interviewed by Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online on the national debt of the United States, the debt ceiling, and the moral issues of the budget debate. Their discussion spanned from how a prudent, discerning legislator should look at the debt-ceiling debate to the mind set needed when considering spending cuts:

LOPEZ: So many spending cuts can be spun, some perhaps legitimately so, as mean (and liberal policymakers and activists — many with the best of intentions — are all too happy to spin them). How should we be thinking of such things? Does it require a change in thinking?

SIRICO: The question should be right-or-wrong, prudent-or-imprudent, not mean-or-nice. Religious leaders bring their principles into the political debate, but the application of those principles is a prudential question, not an emotional one. It’s also an opportunity for us to reflect upon what governments really need to do, and what is more appropriately done by non-state entities — and I’m not talking about the ones (such as many religiously associated charities and relief agencies) that receive the bulk of their funding from various federal-government contracts.

Yes, a change of thinking is required. If cuts are to be made, then Americans cannot operate under the mentality that “it is acceptable to cut government programs as long as it isn’t government programs that I benefit from.” The core problem is that few are eager to take the pain now. If we don’t, the pain will be much more unbearable down the road. Consider how we got into this situation in the first place.

In the end, reining in spending will protect programs that aid those truly in need, and provide the space for non-state and non-government-funded agencies to undertake much-needed work — that is, to secure the entire infrastructure that makes prosperity possible. That not only creates the grounds for economic flourishing, but preserves human dignity.

Click here to read the full interview.

Louie Glinzak


  • Roger McKinney

    Mike, I would be very happy with a government that limited
    itself to building roads and providing police and fire protection. That would
    cut the federal budget by 90%.


    BTW, corporations don’t pay taxes; their customers do. Almost
    all tax increases on corporations are passed on to the consumers as higher


    What happens when you cut the taxes of the richest 1%? The
    rich invest the savings in new businesses that create jobs.

  • Anonymous


    No where in the interview does Rev. Sirico say we must cut
    everything in order to save the government. If the conclusion you drew from
    this article is that everything in government must be cut then your conclusion
    is far from the message Rev. Sirico was actually articulating. If you have looked
    at any of our past publications you’ll notice that there are services that we have
    acknowledged at the Acton Institute that we believe the government can and
    should provide.

    In regards to your claim about corporations, we do not
    advocate for the government to pick winners and losers. Instead, we argue for a
    free market economy, one that fosters an economic environment for businesses to
    have the opportunity to flourish. The government shouldn’t pick which business
    succeeds and fails, instead that should be up to the consumer to decide. As a
    result, the best business succeeds.

    Also, here at the Acton Institute, we argue for a virtuous
    society. As you’ll see if you look around our website, a virtuous society
    understands it’s social responsibility. Follow the links to see two examples (

    In regards to your argument for spreading money and wealth
    around and also questioning the morality of not doing so, I would argue for
    wealth creation rather than spreading around wealth. In Thomas Woods’s article
    Beyond Distributism (
    there is a strong argument against redistribution of wealth while also giving a
    moral argument against it. Furthermore, Rev. Sirico recently highlighted this
    is an interview with the National Catholic Register (
    You’ll find many more articles by Rev. Sirico that go further in-depth in
    arguing for wealth creation while also explaining the moral argument behind it.
    Wealth creation helps preserve our human dignity by allowing us to provide for

    I would be interested to see studies that demonstrate government agencies
    doing fulfilling the need that private charities leave void. In the article “Does
    American Charity Cheat the Tax Man?” author Karen Woods quotes a survey conducted
    by Louisiana State University: “In a survey by Louisiana State University
    researchers, state residents were asked to rate the effectiveness of
    hurricane-recovery organizations on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very
    effective. Church relief groups got the highest mark of 8.1. Next were
    nonprofits, the Salvation Army, and local community organizations, at 7.5. The
    Red Cross scored 7.4. Governments ranked lowest with Louisiana residents, with the Federal
    Emergency Management Agency at 5.3, the federal government at 5.1, and state
    and local governments at 4.6.

    The real problem with government “charity” is that government takes a “one
    size fits all” approach to the problem of poverty. That, really, is all a
    bureaucracy can do. Government agencies are not designed to understand unique
    circumstances or to care about personal problems. And government certainly is
    not equipped to provide total coverage for major disasters like the Gulf Coast
    hurricanes. Government also pretends to distribute its help in an equitable and
    even-handed manner, an error of policy that results in waste, fraud and
    corruption.” The full article can be found by clicking on the link (
    Another great article you may find interesting concerning charities is by
    Phillip Booth (

    The problem is you make broad assertions that are not made in the blog post
    or the interview. Rev. Sirico never advocated for cutting unemployment
    insurance, road funding, police services, or firefighter services in the
    interview. Government is necessary to an extent; however, we have crossed the
    line, government has grown too large, and we do not have the financial
    resources to keep it growing at this level. Our country does not have the
    financial resources to keep feeding a growing government.