Congress failing the basic moral test


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reiterated its criticism of the priorities of the Federal Budget proposed by Congress.

Writing on behalf of the U. S. Bishops to Congress as they prepare to vote on a reconciliation package for the 2013 budget, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California called for the protection of the poor and vulnerable, stating that “the proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test.”

The proposed budget includes massive cuts to food stamps, elimination of the funding of the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and prohibiting hard-working families of immigrant children from receiving the child tax credit. The proposed $33 billion cut in the food stamp program would result in more than two million Americans being placed at risk of not meeting basic food and nutrition needs as well as causing them to fall deeper into cycle of poverty. The important source of funding for programs across the country that serve the homeless, the elderly, the disabled, and children living in poverty and other vulnerable members of society face enormous cuts if the SSBG is defunded.

The USSCB recognizes that Congress is attempting to reduce large budget deficits but the bishops have called upon the nation’s legislature to “pursue responsible deficit reduction.” Such an effort must prioritize the funding of essential services for the poor and needy. Any budget decision must be made in light of protecting human life and dignity, especially for those living in poverty. The moral measure of any proposed budget should been seen in light of how it serves the needs of “the least of those” among us. The needs of the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the unemployed should not only be a priority for Congress but should serve as the catalyst when creating any budget.

The responsibility of caring for the least among us must be shared and government should not leave the task simply to charities and faith institutions to provide for those most vulnerable. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, suggested that such a shared responsibility is part of the “institutional path of charity.” In proposing a budget that cuts the safety net for the poor and marginalized, Congress has lost its way on this path and taken a turn away from the common good. When those most vulnerable are treated as burdens to be cut from a budget, it is clear that the financial plan is failing any moral test.

The less fortunate cannot provide themselves access to Congress with high-paid and powerful lobbyists, but their most compelling needs must be a priority for every member of Congress. The poor must not be left on the floor of Congressional cuts to fend for themselves. In this time of economic hardship and with escalating poverty, Congress is about to fail the moral test of serving the common good and protecting the needs of those less fortunate living on the margins of society. We call upon the U.S. Congress to turn back to the path of charity and common good and responsibly create a budget that includes respecting human life and dignity by helping the millions of Americans living in poverty.