In this time of economic crisis for the federal government, as well as state and city governments, the axe is falling on most budgets.
Cutting spending and eliminating programs have become the charge of elected officials of all stripes. In the face of historic deficits and rising costs of entitlement programs and war, the nation faces unavoidable choices on how to balance the needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices.
While fiscal responsibility and budgetary constraint are important themes in times of economic crisis, it is equally important to remember the common good and solidarity with our brothers and sisters- especially those who live in poverty.
For Catholics, a clear message and the moral focus of our nation and state is found in how we treat "the least of these" at all stages of life from natural conception to natural death in our budget decisions and legislative proposals. The large number of people who are jobless or living in poverty, those who face hunger or homelessness, must continue to be protected with safety nets- not treated as cuts on the budget room floor.
In these times of economic crisis, the poor and the vulnerable are in greater need of assistance, not less. Budgets are moral documents that bear witness to the priorities of our society.
Economic justice and solidarity with the least among us should be a budget priority for federal, state and municipal leaders. As Pope Benedict XVI stated: "I therefore encourage the Leaders of nations and all people of good will to commit themselves with ever greater determination to building a free and supportive world, where attention to people takes precedence over mere economic aspects. It is our duty to accept responsibility for one another and for the functioning of the world as a whole, so that it cannot be said, as Cain did in answer to God’s question in the Book of the Genesis: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
In considering tough budget decisions the leaders of our nation and state must answer Cain's question with a resounding "Yes."