Catholic World News

USCCB finds ‘good news,’ ‘bad news’ in budget deal

August 04, 2011

In its analysis of the legislation associated with the US debt ceiling debate, the Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops found “good news” and “bad news.”

“The access was unusual,” states the report, which was distributed by John Carr, the department’s executive director. “We met with the President of the United States and the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, with the Office of the Speaker and the Senate Minority Leader, with members of the bipartisan ‘Gang of Six’ senators working on a deficit reduction proposal, and with key Administration officials.”

Recounting the “good news,” the report states that

the final deal includes one crucial provision to protect low income programs: One specific priority for us was to exempt low-income entitlement programs from the automatic cuts if the special Congressional committee cannot reach agreement on the next round of required deficit reduction (at least $1.2 trillion)—something the President insisted on in the final negotiations on the deal and the Republican leadership accepted. This was one of the last issues resolved and means that Medicaid, food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP), Child Nutrition, Unemployment Compensation, the Earned Income and Child tax credits, and other core low-income programs will not be automatically cut if the committee cannot reach agreement. The USCCB is very grateful for the essential efforts of the Administration and others to ensure that these programs are exempted from the mandatory cuts in the agreement. (Allies at the White House and on the Hill tell us our efforts were essential in securing this provision.)

The “bad news” is that this legislation will require major cuts to discretionary programs, including and especially programs which serve those who are poor and vulnerable. Even with the exemption for low-income entitlement programs from automatic cuts, these programs, international development, and other poverty-focused programs remain particularly vulnerable to major cuts, with all their human costs and moral implications. The protection for low-income entitlements only applies to automatic across-the-board spending cuts that would take effect in 2013 if the Committee fails to reach agreement by later this year or if the Congress fails to pass the Committee’s recommended deficit reduction package.

The report also stated that Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces recently told President Barack Obama that “there seems [sic] to be several ‘givens’ in this debate. For Republicans, no new taxes is a given. For some Democrats, no cuts in Medicare are a given. For others, no cuts in military spending is a given. For your Administration, some additional revenues are a given. Sadly, if you listen to the debate it seems that protecting the poor and vulnerable is not a given. That is why we are here.”

Further information:
Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: unum - Aug. 05, 2011 7:15 AM ET USA

    The political naivete of the bishops is telling when they make statements like, "protecting the poor and vulnerable is not a given". The only "given" for the President and the Congress is reelection in 2012.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 04, 2011 5:39 PM ET USA

    It is sad that so many in the Church do not recognize the inevitable conflict between big government and religion. And they seem to believe that charity should be conducted by bureaucratic organizations which are functionally atheistic. How odd.