Several years ago, faced with a disastrous federal budget proposal, Sojourners started using the phrase “budgets are moral documents.” That phrase has now entered the common lexicon, and it remains one of our fundamental principles.
Budgets reflect the values and priorities of a family, church, organization, city, state, or nation. They tell us what is most important and valued to those making the budget. So it is important that we do a “values audit” of President Barack Obama’s proposed budget, a “moral audit” of our priorities. Who benefits in this budget, what things are revealed as most important, and what things are less important? America’s religious communities are required to ask of any budget: What happens to the poor and most vulnerable—especially, what becomes of the nation’s poorest children in these critical decisions?
The values of the American people should also be applied to the budget—for example, fairness (everyone paying their fair share); opportunity for all Americans; fiscal, personal, and social responsibility; balancing important and different priorities; defining security more broadly than only military considerations, taking into account economic and family security too; compassion and protection for the vulnerable; building community; and upholding the common good. After many years of working to reverse cuts that harmed those in poverty, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a proposed budget that benefits poor and low-income people.