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USCCB criticizes Ryan budget plan, urges maintenance of funding for anti-poverty programs

Catholic World News - March 21, 2013

In a letter of members of Congress, the chairmen of two committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said they were “profoundly concerned that the allocation for non-defense discretionary spending be large enough to maintain current commitments to poor persons.”

“Cuts in this allocation, which includes many domestic and international poverty-focused programs, will have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable families,” said Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Human Development. “This is especially true of the dramatic cuts envisioned in the House Budget resolution” – a reference to Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal for the 2014 budget.

The prelates continued:

Non-defense discretionary spending that serves poor and vulnerable people includes but is not limited to: Head Start; Emergency Food and Shelter Program; improved workforce training and development; safe and affordable housing; the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides vital assistance to poor families in the nation’s capital in seeking out high-quality education for their children; as well as poverty-focused international assistance programs that save lives, treat and prevent disease, make farmers more productive, help orphans, feed victims of disasters, and protect refugees, enhancing global security.

The House proposed budget drastically cuts mandatory programs (not including Social Security, health care programs, civil service pensions, farm programs, and interest payments) by about $800 billion over ten years, relative to current laws. This figure is very concerning, since 70 percent of the spending in this budget category goes for programs to help poor and vulnerable people. Programs in this category include programs that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has consistently supported: Pell Grants; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps); the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) for the aged and disabled people in poverty; School lunches and other child nutrition programs; the Earned Income Tax Credit and the lowincome component of the Child Tax Credit; and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Following the bishops’ letter – dated March 18 and released March 20 – the USCCB issued an action alert urging Catholics to “answer Pope Francis’ call to be ‘protectors... to those in need’” by contacting members of Congress.

“Responsible deficit reduction requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly,” according to the language suggested by the USCCB in communicating with representatives and senators.

“Congress should create a Circle of Protection around programs that serve ‘the least of these,’ not cut or eliminate them. Programs like Medicare and Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), low-income working tax credits, and-poverty focused international assistance provide vital support for individuals and families struggling to live decently.”

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: bernie4871 - Mar. 22, 2013 12:07 PM ET USA

    Why don't the Bishops see the contradiction in their own positions. They say it is wrong to turn over care for the poor to the Government because it removes our personal responsibility, and they they complain when the Government needs to reduce its programs. Food stamps have doubled and abused outrageously, as just one example and no limit seems to apply to their or Democrat's never ending programs, regardless of National bankruptcy. Who pays when we are broke?

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Mar. 22, 2013 8:30 AM ET USA

    Another day, another USCCB policy statement which could have been written by Organizing for America. Let's review the principle of subsidiarity and the US Constitution. Defense is a core function of the federal government as stated in the Constitution: "Provide for the common defense." Subsidiarity dictates that the lowest possible level of government get the preferential option to care for the poor, not the most distant (ie, Washington).

  • Posted by: unum - Mar. 21, 2013 9:20 PM ET USA

    I can only assume that the USCCB believes that federal social welfare programs have no fraud or waste. Further, they believe that it is acceptable for the U.S. to continue to increase the national debt until a debt crisis occurs and Americans suffer drastic reductions in social programs as dictated by bond holders (as has happened in Greece). In this fiscal crisis, the bishops have demonstrated ignorance of economics and a reluctance to empower knowledgeable laity to offer workable solutions.

  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Mar. 21, 2013 8:01 PM ET USA

    It's the continued reliance on the government that creates the problems with which the Church is now dealing. Even Catholic Relief Services receives a substantial portion of its income from the government (and all the strings attached). The Lord did not command the 'government' to care for the poor - He commanded Christians to do that

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