US bishops urge protection of poor in budget standoff

Barack Obama and Joe Biden meet with Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew and Rob Nabors Director of Legislative Affairs on 4 5 11 CNA US Catholic News 4 6 11 President Obama and Joe Biden meet with Budget Director Jack Lew and Rob Nabors, Director of Legislative Affairs on April 5. | Pete Souza

As lawmakers battle over the nation's budget proposal, the U.S. bishops called for action from Catholic faithful to ensure that cuts don't unfairly target those most in need.

“Unfortunately, the voices of poor and vulnerable people are not being heard in the debate, and they are being forced to bear the brunt of the proposed cuts,” the U.S. bishops' conference said in an action alert issued this week.

Congressional leaders have sparred in recent days over the current FY 2011 spending bill, causing an impasse that could prompt a government shutdown if an agreement can't be reached by midnight on April 8.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama placed a call to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to discuss the debate, reported the Associated Press. Rep. Boehner's office said that the House speaker told Obama he was hopeful a deal could be negotiated. The two later held a meeting on Wednesday evening.

The U.S. bishops warned that some of the proposals under discussion “include disproportionate cuts to programs that serve the poorest, most vulnerable people at home and abroad.” 

“Likewise a shutdown of government services will fall most heavily on those who have the fewest resources,” they argued.
The bishops said that the vast majority of the cuts come from the non-defense, discretionary portion of the budget – about 12 percent of the total federal budget – which includes the majority of social welfare, education, and other anti-poverty funding.

Budget cuts outlined in the bishop's action alert include $2.3 billion from job training programs, $100 million from domestic emergency food and shelter, $875 million from international disaster assistance, and $800 million from international food aid.

Other cuts include $2.5 billion from affordable housing, $1 billion from community health centers and $904 million from migrants and refugees programs. 

“Many proposals under discussion fail the moral criteria of Catholic teaching to protect the poor and advance the common good,” the bishops wrote.

“Poor and vulnerable people didn’t cause our budget deficit. They should not bear the greatest burdens in overcoming them. Don’t make them pay for it,” they said.

The bishops drafted an e-mail template in their action alert for Catholics to use and urged the faithful to contact their local congressmen and explain how the cuts will negatively effect parish communities.
“As the final bill is negotiated, shared sacrifice should guide spending cuts, not disproportionate cuts in programs that serve poor persons at home or abroad,” they said. 

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