Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bishop Hubbard on the federal budget

In his monthly column in The Evangelist, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard addresses current budget negotiations in Congress, and discusses them in terms of Catholic social teaching:
Congress is presently negotiating deep spending cuts in the federal government’s fiscal year 2011 budget.

Last week, as chairperson for the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, I and Bishop Stephen Blaire, who chairs the Episcopal Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, visited key members of Congress to express our concerns that the cries of the poor and vulnerable at home and abroad are not being heard.

We realize that times of fiscal restraint demand shared sacrifices. Strategies must be developed to raise adequate revenues, eliminate unnecessary spending, meet defense needs and address the long-term costs of health insurance programs in a fair and just way.

Burden on poor
But the principles of Catholic social teaching insist that cuts be shared so that those who are most vulnerable do not bear the primary burden for reducing the deficit. Indeed, in a time of austerity and fiscal restraint, “the least of these” have a special moral priority.

Unfortunately, in the current debate to date, the poor are being asked to bear a disproportionate share of the proposed cuts. The vast majority of the cuts come from the non-defense, discretionary portion of the budget — only about 12 percent of the total budget — which funds the majority of social welfare, education and other anti-poverty programs at home and abroad.

Fiscal responsibility is important and our current budget deficit must be addressed. However, shared sacrifice should guide budget cuts, not reliance on disproportionate cuts in programs that serve poor persons.

Cruelest cuts
Current proposals fail the moral criteria of Catholic teaching to protect the poor and advance the common good. Some of the largest proposed funding cuts include:

• $1.08 billion from Head Start,

• $800 million from International Food Aid,

• $100 million from Emergency Food and Shelter,

• $2.5 billion from affordable housing,

• $875 million from International Disaster Assistance,

• $1 billion from community health centers,

• $2.3 billion from job training programs and

• $904 million from migrants and refugees.

We are very apprehensive about the reductions contained in the present proposals. There is projected to be only about three percent in overall cuts, but 27 percent in poverty cuts for international assistance.
The rest of this article is here.

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