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Mainline Denomination Leaders on the FY'08 Budget
3/12/2007
Dear Members of Congress

The President has now sent his proposed FY ’08 Federal Budget to the 110th Congress.  Much will be written and said in the coming weeks and months about the content of that $2.9 trillion budget.  As the leaders of five denominations whose members helped shape the core values of this nation from its founding, we believe the Federal Budget must represent a shared vision of justice and compassion for all of God’s people, both in our own nation and around the world. 

Not surprisingly, we find that the FY ’08 Federal Budget meets our vision in some areas but decidedly not in others.  We call upon the 110th Congress to work to both sustain this budget where it is just and compassionate and to improve upon it where it is not.  

One cannot consider this budget without the backdrop of the cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan - $145.2 billion in 2008 – and of permanently extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts costing $374 billion over the next five years.  Those figures are staggeringly large, especially as compared to the very small amount for domestic discretionary spending once homeland security funds are subtracted. 

One of the gifts of our work is that we travel the world, knowing that our mission is to seek and serve those both at home and abroad.  We believe that our government must do likewise.  In this budget we find that while it cuts spending for those at home, it expands funding for the critical fight against deadly poverty and disease in poor countries around the world.  Even in difficult financial times, policymakers should not be forced to pit the needs of vulnerable people at home against our nation’s moral obligation to respond to the life-and-death struggles of people around the world.   We are grateful for increases in international-assistance programs, and call upon Congress to ensure that equally critical domestic spending receive similar increases.   Those increases must not come, however, at the expense of the unprecedented advances this budget makes in fighting poverty and disease abroad. 

Specifically, we ask Congress to fight these cuts in domestic discretionary spending:

  • Nutrition: Commodity Supplemental Food Program – termination of food assistance to 440,000 low-income seniors in an average month
  • Energy Assistance: Despite recent increases in the cost of heating and reaching only 23% of eligible households in FY ‘06, energy assistance to poor families, the elderly and the disabled would be cut.
  • Children’s Health: Allocated funds in the budget would not cover all those presently enrolled in SCHIP much less expand coverage to eligible others.
  • Child Care: Funding for child care for children in low- and moderate-income families would be frozen even as inflation causes the cost of providing child care to rise
  • Head Start: Funding cuts would leave programs with the choice of reducing the number of children served or the quality of the programs.
  • Housing: Programs for the low-income, elderly and people with disabilities would be cut.
  • Social Services Block Grant: Funds for states to provide basic services to vulnerable low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities would be cut.
  • Health Care: Proposed $13 billion Medicaid cuts over five years would shift costs to states that may result in their providing less health care for low-income beneficiaries.

In international spending, we applaud:

  • HIV/AIDS: an unprecedented increase to $5.4 billion
  • Millennium Challenge Account: increased to $3 billion
  • Sudan: an increase for humanitarian and peacekeeping programs.

Within the international budget, we urge Congress to maintain these critical increases while also working to maintain the momentum of key international-development accounts that did not fare as well but which are equally critical in fighting extreme poverty and disease abroad.  Spending on humanitarian and development programs abroad is especially important at this time, not only because of the catastrophes that are unfolding daily before us, but because of the need to show that the United States sees all God’s people as its neighbors and seeks to serve human need wherever it occurs.

In Matthew 6 it is written:  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  We in the United States are blessed with many treasures.  And there are many demands on just where and how those treasures should be spent.  It is our prayer that our federal budget will put our treasure into programs that show our hearts to be compassionate and just.  For in doing so we will strengthen all of God’s people and in return our nation.

 

Signed by:

 

The Reverend Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church

The Reverend Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Bishop Beverly Shamana
President of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society

The Reverend John H. Thomas
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

 



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