Of Amos and Newt

Last fall, the Republican-controlled Congress passed legislation that would slash $380 billion dollars from programs for the poor and grant about $245 billion in tax cuts to the rich and middle class. They cut Head Start, food stamps, Pell grants, earned income tax credits-and gave wealthy taxpayers earning more than $100,000 a year tax cuts worth $47.6 billion on reduced capital gains taxes alone.

That makes me angry. And very sad. God judges nations by what they do to the poorest. The scriptures teach that knowing God is inseparable from seeking justice for the poor (Jeremiah 22). "The one who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord" (Proverbs 19:17). When we care for the least, we minister to Jesus himself (Matthew 25:40). But if the Bible is true and God pulls down societies that neglect the poor (Ezekiel 16:49-50), God have mercy on us.

Even now, one-fifth of all children in the United States live in poverty-the worst percentage among industrialized nations. And it is going to get even worse.

I'm not arguing that we continue business as usual. We need a radical overhaul of the welfare system. The budget deficit is immoral robbery of our grandchildren. But should we destroy today's children to save our grandchildren?

Forty percent of the Republicans' proposed budget cuts would come from slashed programs for the poor. Why not instead tap the $85 billion in corporate welfare that the federal government gives private corporations every year? House Republicans sent over a military budget $7 billion higher than the Pentagon even requested-an obvious place for cuts.

The drastic cuts in anti-poverty programs come on top of the losses of the previous 20 years. From 1973 to 1992, the poorest 10 percent of American families suffered an 11 percent drop in real income. On the other hand, the richest 10 percent enjoyed an 18 percent increase.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1996
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