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Faith and Budgets

A new blog post from Gary Maring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul R and the Republican House are at it again. Disguised as a deficit cutting proposal, their 2013 budget is actually largely a transfer of the nation’s resources from the most needy to the wealthy and corporations in the form of tax cuts. This budget is largely a political statement guided by the ideology of the political Right. Paul Ryan and his Tea Party followers in the House openly admit they are students of philosopher Ayn Rand who preaches individualism and survival of the fittest. However, we in the faith communities know that the Bible does not follow the Ayn Rand philosophy. Theologian Ronald Sider says: ‘From one end of the Bible to another, we hear a powerful summons to have a special concern for poor and needy persons.” For Christians, the example of the early church as portrayed in Acts shows followers of Jesus living in community and caring for each other. Christians shared in such amazing ways that “there was no needy person among us” (Acts 4:34).

Our Luther Place church devotion this month is the story of the Good Samaritan. The question raised in the text is: Who is my Neighbor? Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, of the Disciples of Christ comments that “When Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” he didn’t just mean exchanging cups of sugar with the family next door. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus showed that being a neighbor means reaching out to anyone, anywhere, in their need. A federal budget that slices away at funds for hungry children and their families, that abandons senior citizens, that reduces life-sustaining foreign aid, is a budget that goes against the teachings of Jesus. America can do better! The Good Samaritan saw a need, reached out to meet the need, and then enlisted the aid of others to help. Through a compassionate federal budget, we can do the same – and be a stronger nation for it!”

Getting back to the details of the House budget proposal, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finds that Ryan’s 2013 budget plan would cut programs to help low- and middle-income people afford health insurance — Medicaid, CHIP, and the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies to help near-poor and moderate-income families afford insurance — by more than 75 percent by 2050, with the bulk of the cuts coming from Medicaid. The huge cuts in so called mandatory spending would also slash programs like food stamps, welfare, and nutrition programs and then gives back all these cuts to the most needy in form of tax cuts, largely to the wealthy and corporations. This is straight out of Dickens!

According to analysis from Bread for the World: “This FY 2013 budget proposal would have a devastating impact on programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), low-income tax credits, and would make international food aid and poverty-focused foreign assistance vulnerable to cuts that would undermine our national security.”

Earlier this month, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to Congress urging them to adhere to three moral principles when making budget decisions:
1. Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.
3. Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.

Sojourners reports that Father Thomas Kelly, a Catholic priest who lives in Ryan’s district, raised concerns that the budget Ryan proposed is not consistent with Catholic social teaching. As a constituent of Congressman Ryan and a Catholic priest, he says: “I’m disappointed by his cruel budget plan and outraged that he defends it on moral grounds. Ryan is Catholic, and he knows that justice for the poor and economic fairness are core elements of our church’s social teaching. It’s shameful that he disregarded these principles in his budget.”

Sojourners says further in regard to the Ryan budget: “Though the vulnerable may not have Super PACs or gangs of lobbyists fighting for them, they do have us — people of faith. And our faith compels us to fight this immoral budget. We are committed to pray and fast and write letters and raise our voices in the public square in the hope that America’s conscience might be awakened from a sound, silent slumber.” Bread for the World recently launched its 2012 Offering of Letters campaign which urges members of Congress to create a Circle of Protection around programs for hungry and poor people in this country and abroad. Many of the mainline churches (including the ELCA), as well as evangelical organizations like Sojourners, are part of this effort. I urge you to join the Circle of Protection at: http://www.circleofprotection.us/ .

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