Coming together from all streams of American Christianity to speak in opposition to cuts on the safety-net programs is no minor achievement. We have a widespread consensus on the priority of providing essential life saving support to poor people in our country. We also agree in that the ultimate goal is to create a just society in which everyone live an abundant life that includes meaningful work with fair salaries, affordable health care and education, and time for leisure and recreation.
When we say the most vulnerable or the “least of these” we are not talking about numbers on a page. We are talking about the elderly — grandmothers and grandfathers, deacons, trustees, and ushers, children’s ministry workers, community leaders, and those who have worked for decades to provide for themselves and their families. We are talking about children and youth who were born with purpose and possibilities, who have their whole lives ahead of them, future pastors, and lay leaders, lawyers, teachers, journalists, and members of Congress — those who will determine the future our nation. We’re talking about those who have disabilities and those who work hard every day – sometimes two and three jobs to make ends meet and provide for their families but get paid low wages that do not cover the high cost of living in most cities and towns in our nation.
Several years ago, Sojourners asked that question, leading a campaign to remind our leaders in Washington that: “A budget is a moral document. Our faith tells us that the moral test of a society is how it treats the poor. As a country, we face difficult choices, but whether or not we defend vulnerable people should not be one of them.” As we look at the priorities outlined in the Trump administration’s 2018 budget released today, it’s worth asking again: What would Jesus cut?
Every day now, politicians and the pundits debate what obstruction of justice technically means, and ask how resilient our political institutions are to a presidency that almost daily goes beyond “unprecedented.” But while we all wait for the next crisis to hit and anticipate the new media cycle about it, we dare not miss what people are faith are always supposed to be most concentrated on — the poor and the vulnerable who are facing unprecedented threats from funding and policy decisions that lie just ahead.
Religious leaders, including some who spoke at President Trump’s inauguration, are calling on Congress to protect foreign aid that helps the needy across the globe.
Trump’s 2018 budget proposal calls for $25.6 billion in funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. That’s a decrease of $10.1 billion, or 28 percent, from the 2017 budget.
Last night, Jim Wallis appeared on "The Ed Show" to discuss why it's imperative to avoid cutting social programs like food stamps that feed millions of poor and hungry in our country. Those pastors who disagree, he says, usually don't know the faces of those directly affected by such cuts. You can watch the segment Jim appeared on here:
“I believe the sequester is a pittance.”
Those were conservative Sen. Rand Paul’s words in an opinion piece this week about the sequester – severe and arbitrary cuts to the federal budget that Congress did nothing to stop. We could give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he hasn’t seen the numbers:
- The nutrition program for women with children — WIC — will have to turn away 600,000 to 775,000 women, many of whom have young children.
- The 3.8 million currently unemployed workers will have their support cut by 11 percent.
- 100,000 low-income families will lose their housing vouchers.
- 125,000 individuals and families are now at risk of homelessness.
That doesn’t sound like a “pittance” to me.
The sequester battle is a good but tragic example of how the idea of the common good is failing in American politics. By contrast, the growing bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform is an alternative example of how a moral issue can rise about our ideologically driven politics.
The faith community has stepped into both issues with a call for political leaders to serve the common good. On immigration, political leaders are listening to the faith leaders; on the debates about our nation’s fiscal soul, political leaders need to listen better.
Religion reporter Amy Sullivan has an interesting piece in The New Republic today on the politics surround the deep cuts to government food programs being proposed by the House Agriculture Committee.
As she notes:
"Some conservatives have argued that government shouldn’t even be in the business of feeding people—that the job should be handled by local congregations and other community organizations. Paul Ryan has sparred with Catholic bishops who oppose cuts to SNAP, quipping that 'a preferential option for the poor does not mean a preferential option for big government.'”
The article goes on to note that, while churches were the only social safety net the country had for many years, it was the Great Depression which ended this role. Quoting from an article by Alison Collis Greene:
“'The Depression crippled churches’ finances, and the economic downturn forced them to slash services when people needed help most. Religious leaders and local church members alike recognized the crisis, and many demanded that the federal government intervene.'”
Sullivan argues that we find ourselves in a situation not so different to that of the 1930s today:
"We are watching a similar situation play out now. Many religious traditions and individual churches were struggling when the recession began. The Catholic church was dealing with the fallout from the priest sex abuse scandals. It and other traditions are still embroiled in debates over homosexuality that have led to splits or caused members to leave altogether. Congregational membership levels are down in almost every religious tradition. And as a result, their resource pools have shrunk."
Yes, smarter and more effective government programs are vital when budgets are being cut across the board. But indiscriminate cuts to vital services like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and calls for churches to pick up the pieces are simply immoral and ultimately impossible.
The cuts being proposed by the Committee will have a devastating impact on poor Americans. It’s time to stand up for the poorest and more vulnerable. You can help. Tell Congress to oppose cuts to nutrition programs in the Farm Bill today.
Anti-poverty advocates and members of Congress are speaking out against proposed cuts to anti-hunger programs being considered in the broader political tussle over the Farm Bill. Over ten congressional representatives, including Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), joined a rally denouncing.
NETWORK, a Catholic social justice group, is sponsoring the road trip, which departed from Ames, Iowa today.
From investigative-journalism nonprofit Remapping Debate:
"When the recession hit, state revenues — made up primarily of sales and income taxes — declined dramatically, prompting deep cuts to state services. In at least 30 states, funding for K-12 education was lower in fiscal year 2012 than in 2008, despite growing student populations. States have also made deep cuts in health care programs and in higher education funding. State aid to local governments has declined, and state and local governments have shed more than 500,000 jobs since the beginning of 2009.
In state after state, politicians justified the large budget cuts on the grounds that the condition of the state budget made it temporarily necessary to reduce services. ..."
Now income and sales taxes are bouncing back, and at least 25 states are likely to be running a surplus for the fiscal year ending in June. But
"... instead of either restoring cuts in state services or increasing aid to local governments and school districts, several state legislatures are choosing to use their surpluses to cut taxes. Besides Kansas, at least seven other states have passed bills that cut taxes and reduce revenue in future years, and several more are still considering doing so."
Read the full investigative article here.
There is a beautiful story that some Christians have learned to tell about motherhood. This story is one of strength, faith, sacrifice, loss, and unconditional love.
Our Biblical mothers, from Eve to Mary and everyone in between (Sarah, Leah, Rachel, Jochebed (the mother of Moses), Bathsheba, Hannah, and Elizabeth to name a few) provide examples of women who defied societal constraints to protect their children; who gave them up so that their children might prosper; who supported, loved and nurtured their sons absolutely, without the expectation that that same love would be returned to them.
In Mary’s story we are called to appreciate the mother who shepherded truth and salvation into the world, whose faith made our faith possible today. The Christian story of motherhood is one I am proud to tell and one I hope to live into one day.
On Mother’s Day, we have the opportunity to reflect on the gifts of motherhood, to lift up the mother’s among us and recognize their strengths, sacrifices, and wisdom--what a beautiful idea. But the problem, in our society, is that one day of cards and flowers just doesn’t cut it. For most of the other 364 days of the year, the lives of women and mothers are undervalued.
Under a mandate from the budget resolution passed by the House in March, committees are required to cut discretionary programs to avoid the automatic cuts in military spending to take effect in January. The funds cut are to be moved from the nondefense to the defense categories in the budget. Yesterday, the House Agriculture Committee produced its share by cutting $33 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps).
Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the ranking Democrat on the Committee had this response: “You can’t have a serious conversation about getting the budget under control when you take large items like defense off the table, which is really why we are here. Taking a meat-ax to nutrition programs that feed millions of working families in this country in order to avoid defense cuts is not a serious way to achieve deficit reduction.”
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that a cut this large would result in 2 million people losing benefits and the remaining 44 million having theirs reduced. So here’s the equation, more hungry people = more weapons for war. It’s clear and direct.
Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor at Sojourners. You can follow him on Twitter @DShankDC.
Sen. Jim DeMint recently released a plan to cut the federal deficit with $4.2 trillion in spending cuts. And guess what he wants to cut?
Seventy percent of the cuts would come from safety net programs that assist low-income people, including eliminating the earned income-tax credit and child tax credit.
Even an analyst for the American Enterprise Institute objected, saying, "It's comprised completely of spending cuts and no tax increases, but then targets the lower-income programs while sparing the big middle-class programs. They could have designed a spending-cut program that was more balanced …”
The news brought to mind a parable from the mid-1800s.
In the opening scene of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is approached by two earnest gentlemen. "At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,'' said the gentleman, taking up a pen, ``it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.''
Rather than the opinions of individual pundits, here’s a roundup of what the editors of some of the nation’s largest newspapers had to say this week about the failure of the “Supercommittee.”
Some blame Republicans, some blame Democrats, and most blame both.
Washington Post: “What next, now that the congressional supercommittee has failed? Depressingly, the answer is: not much, at least in the short term. Absent some intervening, cataclysmic event, the debt-reduction can has been kicked once again — this time, until after the election.”
The Independent (London): “The failure of the comically mis-named "super-committee" of Congress to come up with even the modest debt reduction package required of it has been a racing certainty for weeks in Washington. Nonetheless, Monday evening's admission of that failure – the latest proof of the dysfunctionality of America's political system – is not only shameful. It is also dangerous.”
Sixty percent of white evangelicals support raising taxes on those making more than a million a year and 58 percent oppose cutting federal programs that support low-income people.
The Republicans have been taken over by an extreme ideology that their political base doesn't even support. And the power of money has corrupted our political system.
What was lost with the supercommittee was a responsible and balanced way to reduce the deficit, while protecting both the poor and the common good. Very sad and alarming for the future.
Do we want to be the kind of America that faces an historic deficit and chooses to extend $690 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of our citizens while cutting $650 billion in aid to children who need special education, student aid, and additional resources for low-income schools?
Do we want to be the kind of America that protects $44 billion in subsidies for oil and gas companies while cutting $47 billion in energy grants to help poor families heat their homes in the winter?
Right now the wealthiest Americans are wealthier than they’ve ever been and people living beneath the poverty line make up a larger slice of the American pie than they have since the Great Depression.
Is that really what we want? Really?
A special congressional supercommittee acknowledged failure Monday in efforts to cut the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. The panel’s failure was announced in a joint statement issued in late afternoon after the close of U.S. stock markets, which plunged during the day.