The Common Good

The Death of Compassionate Conservatism

Sojomail - November 7, 2005


SPECIAL ISSUE: The Death of Compassionate Conservatism 11.07.2005 www.sojo.net


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HEARTS & MINDS ^top

The death of compassionate conservatism
by Jim Wallis

Urgent Action Alert: Call your representative now at (800) 426-8073. Say "no" to a morally bankrupt budget.
Last week, I spoke with other religious leaders at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol, urging the House of Representatives to oppose cuts in social services in their budget bill. When it was over, we walked to the rotunda to offer a prayer for our nation and its leaders, that they would do the right thing for people in poverty. Suddenly, we were face to face with Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and took the opportunity to deliver our message directly to him. He listened politely, but offered little response.


(left to right) Rabbi David Saperstein, Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, and Jim Wallis meet with Speaker Dennis Hastert.
The House is scheduled to begin debate tomorrow on its budget bill, which includes $54 billion in cuts. On the table are cuts of $9.5 billion in Medicaid - by requiring co-pays for pregnant women and children for the first time; $8 billion in foster care, child support enforcement, and aid to the disabled; and $844 million in the Food Stamps Program, which would prevent 300,000 people from receiving food stamps. Forty thousand children would be cut from reduced-price school lunches. Lawmakers intend to follow these with a further cut of $70 billion in taxes that will primarily benefit the top 3% of taxpayers. The message from Congress is that in response to Hurricane Katrina, we're going to cut services for the poor, cut taxes for the rich, and increase deficits for our children and grandchildren.

These plans for deep cuts to social supports, paid for by tax cuts for the wealthiest, are contrary to the national priorities we need to protect our most vulnerable citizens. We need strong moral leadership in Congress, especially during this time of war, record deficits, rising poverty and hunger, and natural disasters. Cutting food stamps and health care that meet the basic needs of poor families is an outrage. Cutting social services to pay for further tax cuts for the rich is a moral travesty that violates biblical priorities. The House leadership seems to be saying they literally want to take food from the mouths of children to make rich people richer. If this ideology and politics of rich over poor prevails and our leaders fail to govern from a set of moral values, then the religious community must conclude that compassionate conservatism is dead.

As this battle for the budget unfolds, I am calling on members of Congress, some of whom make much out of their faith, to start Bible studies before they cast votes to cut services that will further harm the weakest in our nation. They should focus on the gospel imperative - what Jesus tells us about our obligations to the "least of these." Some of them have heard the slogan "What would Jesus do?" Now they should ask, "What would Jesus cut?" Budgets are moral documents, and they reflect our national priorities and values. In the name of social conscience, fiscal responsibility, equal opportunity, protecting our communities, and the very idea of a common good, the upcoming budget votes will be closely watched by people of faith.

I urge you to read the alert that follows, pick up your phone, and call your member of Congress. Tell him or her to show political will in standing up for the least of these, as Jesus reminds us.


Call your representative now, toll-free:

(800) 426-8073 (Thank you, American Friends Service Committee).

The House of Representatives will vote on this immoral budget proposal as early as Thursday of this week, and a one-minute call from you and others could mean the difference between a "yea" or a "nay" vote from your representative. Dialing the number above will get you to the Capitol switchboard. When you reach an operator, ask for your representative by name, and when connected, say something like:

"As a person of faith from [your state], I urge [your representative] to vote "no" on this immoral budget bill that cuts $54 billion in vital services to vulnerable people, including Medicaid, foster care, food stamps, and child support. These cuts will hurt survivors of Katrina and countless working families. Along with proposed tax cuts for the super-wealthy, these are the wrong priorities at the wrong time."

With your help, we can jam the phone lines for justice in Washington! Spreading the word about this outrage is critical to the success of our campaign.

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The award-winning audio magazine for kids that raises their spirits and stirs their imaginations.

Order today and receive Boomerang's "Environmental Activism for Kids": Your kids will meet Chico Mendez and John Muir, journey to the Pacific Northwest, and discover some of nature's fabulous creatures.

Boomerang is NPR for kids. It helps me communicate to my own children why I work for justice and a green future.
- David Batstone

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