Push, not Protest, for a Budget with Better Priorities

By Mary Nelson 3-03-2009

Several years ago over 100 of us were arrested for blocking a Capital building entrance and protesting tax cuts for the 5 percent wealthiest people and program cuts from WIC, food stamps, college assistance, and foster care programs for the poor. That budget, we said, was IMMORAL. President Obama's proposed budget is a direct reversal of that, adding back the taxes to the wealthiest and more adequately funding programs that were cut. Now, people of faith and others, instead of protesting, can push for Congress to adopt these priorities. God calls us to care for the widows and orphans and "let justice roll down."

The newly made and long-term homeless need the funding of the Low Income Housing Trust Fund; those released from prison need the Second Chance Act funded so they can move forward rather than end up back in prison (America has a 67 percent recidivism rate). With extended nutritional programs for pregnant women and children, babies can THRIVE and grow into a good future. With extended assistance for higher education, our youth have greater prospects for work and the "fullness of life."

Such priorities for investing in people and our future create not only a moral budget, but also make good financial sense. It costs $25,000 a year to keep someone in prison; why not spend one-third of that on training and work opportunities? It costs over $1,000 a day for hospital perinatal care; why not spend so much less to keep babies healthy and thriving? A college education creates life-long larger future earnings; why not make that possible for all youth who aspire to that?

Finally, it will take all of us, motivated by our faith and sense of justice, to push Congress to enact such a budget. We need to start now, participate in the Mobilization to End Poverty in late April, and get our congressional delegates to experience firsthand in our communities the opportunity to make a future for children, for our communities.

Mary NelsonMary Nelson is president emeritus of Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation on the West Side of Chicago. She is also a board member of Sojourners.

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