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USCCB offers criticism, praise for Obama budget proposal; will work to change, not repeal health-care law

Catholic World News - April 25, 2013

Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Human Development, have offered criticism and praise of different provisions of the Obama administration’s budget proposal.

The president’s $3.8-billion budget projects a deficit of $744 billion for 2014; the national debt currently stands at $16.8 trillion.

“We have been consistent and vocal in supporting the goal of reducing future unsustainable deficits, but that this must be pursued in ways that protect poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad,” the bishops said in separate letters to members of House of Representatives and Senate. “While we do not wish to offer a detailed critique of President Obama’s entire Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal at this time, we do wish to comment on a number of proposals that impact poverty and basic human needs.”

After offering three principles to guide budgetary decisions, the bishops cautioned that “placing limits on some personal income tax deductions could unintentionally harm charitable giving by eroding or eliminating, in some cases, the value of the charitable tax deduction.”

“We caution that reforms to vital health and retirement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security must not increase poverty or economic hardship among the populations they are supposed to help,” they added. “There are policy options that have the potential to raise adequate revenues for these programs while protecting beneficiaries, and we challenge you to explore those options. We warn against shifting costs to or diminishing the benefits of vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and those who are poor. We will continue to address the morally problematic features of health care reform rather than working to repeal the law.”

The bishops offered praise for the proposed level of funding in several areas:

We appreciate the Administration's continued commitment to poverty-focused international assistance. Congress should ensure robust funding for HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and other humanitarian and development programs. The President’s proposal includes significant changes to Food for Peace that give implementing agencies greater flexibility and end monetization, reforms we have long sought. We urge care, however, to ensure that funding is sustained long term.

Likewise, we appreciate and support the President’s request for assistance to refugee populations, including funding for the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account and the Emergency Migration and Refugee Assistance (ERMA) account. We ask that you improve upon his request but, at a minimum, preserve the proposed levels.

The bishops offered criticism of other budgetary provisions:

The President’s proposal moves Food for Peace funding allocated for food needs during emergencies to International Disaster Assistance (IDA) while substantially cutting existing IDA programs. The proposed reductions are deeply troubling, especially as humanitarian needs grow in places like Syria. Congress should reject these cuts in shelter and medical assistance to very vulnerable populations.

The President proposes cuts to the nuclear Global Threat Reduction Initiative, as nuclear proliferation threats multiply, at the same time increasing funding for nuclear modernization programs. We oppose these shifts. Investing in nuclear weapons systems undercuts the long-term goal of working for a world free from nuclear weapons.

“The moral measure of this budget debate is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless, and poor are treated,” the bishops concluded. “Their voices are too often missing, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources. The bishops stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people, advances the common good, and promotes human life and dignity.”

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: johnmaria6985 - Apr. 26, 2013 9:30 AM ET USA

    I might have missed a recent headline, but when did the Sees of Stockton & Des Moines come to represent the two lungs of the Church? Christ told the disciples to become salt in the world, not to lobby Caesar to increase the minimum daily allowance of sodium. These economic pronouncements are becoming so tired.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Apr. 25, 2013 10:12 PM ET USA

    How many bishops have a degree in economics? Why do they feel so confident waying in on issues like the Federal Budget, but don't feel confident speaking out about moral issues like same sex marriage, contraception, fornication, taxpayer funded abortion etc.? Something is very wrong with the USCCB!

  • Posted by: ZIP5DO@aol.com - Apr. 25, 2013 7:35 PM ET USA

    Excuse me but this is schizoid efforts of the USCCB to part of what is done under Obamacare is good but it must not affect us. They must have the same consultants as the republican leadership. We need to get rid of Obamacare completely and start from scratch. There is so much waste in the budget it is pathetic. We cannot continue on this line. I don't want to hear that we should steal from someone else and redistribute.

  • Posted by: mgreen32234 - Apr. 25, 2013 6:20 PM ET USA

    Yeah, thanks Bishop Blaire. I'm against sterilization and euthenasia but hey it's universal and it's free.(sarc.)

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