USCCB against many budget cutsStockton bishop’s letter to Congress says slashing federal spending involves ‘significant moral choices’
FEB. 17, 2010 (http://calcatholic.com
) - Stockton Bishop Stephen Blaire has written to members of Congress urging them not to try to cut the federal deficit on the backs of the poor and unemployed.
Bishop Blaire’s letter was made public Feb. 15 in a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was written in his capacity as chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), we call on Congress to place the needs of the poor, the unemployed, the hungry, and other vulnerable people first, in setting priorities in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Appropriations Resolution,” wrote Bishop Blaire in his letter, dated Feb. 14. “Decisions on how to allocate opportunities and burdens in setting budget priorities are more than economic policies -- they are significant moral choices. Meeting essential human needs is a compelling ethical and fiscal priority. The health, stability and well being of our nation depend on these decisions. A moral measure of the budget is how it treats ‘the least of these’ at all stages of life from conception until natural death.”
“The need to protect life is clear in decisions on whether to use public funds to attack innocent human life- and in this regard we welcome the bill’s retention of all appropriations riders against abortion funding, and its restoration of a consistent ban on such funding in the District of Columbia,” the bishop noted.
But his letter contained specific recommendations to the U.S. House of Representatives on other issues as well. Specifically, Bishop Blaire expressed the USCCB’s concerns over a proposed $1 billion cut to Community Health Centers, which he said would “deny health care to nearly ten million poor and vulnerable people including mothers and children at risk. These centers are often the only access to health care for tens of millions of people in our country.”
The letter also took aim at a proposed cut of $2.3 billion in federally-subsidized housing programs. “The bishops affirm their long-standing position that safe, affordable and decent housing is a human right,” wrote Bishop Blaire. “At a time of record foreclosures, increasing homelessness and rising housing costs, the proposed cut of $2.3 billion to affordable housing programs is not justifiable in light of the housing crisis for low and moderate income families.”
Bishop Blaire also criticized a plan to cut job-training programs by $1.75 billion, writing: “this will prolong the economic pain of the very people seeking adequate training to re-enter the job market. Many of those most affected by job loss are less-skilled workers who need additional training and skill development to re-enter the workforce. Congress must ensure funding for and support efforts to strengthen and improve these quality training programs with successful outcomes.”
“We are deeply concerned by cuts in FY 2011 refugee funding that the bill would make,” wrote Bishop Blaire. “More specifically, the bill would cut available funding in FY 2011 for domestic refugee resettlement programs operated by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) by $77 million, or 10.5 percent relative to FY 2010 appropriations. And it would cut funding for refugee admissions and overseas refugee assistance programs in the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account that is operated by the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) by $827 million, or 44.8 percent, relative to FY 2010 appropriations. USCCB believes that cuts to these accounts, which have been historically under-funded, would have a devastating effect on refugees, Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa recipients, victims of torture and trafficking, unaccompanied alien children, and other vulnerable populations served by PRM, ORR, and the communities across the country that welcome these populations.”
“Current proposals call for drastic reductions in non-security related programs that serve the poor and vulnerable,” said Bishop Blaire in his letter. “In a time of economic crisis, the poor and vulnerable are in greater need of assistance, not less. Preserving the national security of the country is without doubt imperative, but we cannot secure the nation while at the same time furthering the insecurity of the poor and vulnerable in our midst.”
“We support reasonable solutions and strategies to address the federal deficit that will ensure stability and security for future generations,” said the bishop. “However, we advocate for a balanced approach that is just and works to preserve the well-being of poor and vulnerable people. Congress should adopt a spending plan for the remainder of FY 2011 that ensures adequate funding for programs that offer opportunity and help to the poor, children, seniors, and people with disabilities and other vulnerable persons. Congress should help to alleviate the burden of the vulnerable, not make it worse.”
In a separate letter, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Ken Hackett, president Catholic Relief Services, wrote Congress to object to plans to cut federal spending on international aid programs.
“Especially in a time of austerity and fiscal restraints, the poor have a special moral claim on limited financial resources,” said the joint letter. “The proposed Continuing Resolution makes over 26% in cuts for poverty-focused international assistance, but only 2.6% in cuts overall. Shared sacrifice is one thing; it is another to make disproportionate cuts in programs that serve the most vulnerable. It is morally unacceptable for our nation to balance its budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad.”