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Faith Reactions to the President’s FY2013 Budget

February 16, 2012, 12:29 pm | Posted by Casey Schoeneberger

With the release of President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget, faith groups are inserting an important moral dimension to the contentious budget debates in Washington. Just as faith groups mobilized during last year’s budget debate, they are once again working hard to ensure that the President’s budget protects vital human needs programs while speaking out to ensure that Congress does not prioritize  tax breaks for the rich over the needs of the most vulnerable.

The United Church of Christ guide to the federal budget  provides a useful framework for evaluating both President Obama’s and Congress budget priorities.

While we like to define ourselves by these ideals of fairness and generosity, we have spent much of our history trying to make the reality resemble the words. Today—when millions are unemployed, and when many jobs pay too little to lift families out of poverty while other people have unimaginable wealth and proposals abound to cut taxes for those most able to pay—our society is failing to realize the ideals we proclaim.

Our laws and public policy are the blueprints by which we set up the institutions that allocate people’s chances in life.  They can provide opportunity for all, and thereby promote justice, or conversely, they can create opportunity for some and deny it for others.

While acknowledging the need to address deficits, David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, was pleased to see that hunger programs are protected in the President’s FY13 budget and has called on Congress to do the same:

We must address our deficits, but we cannot sacrifice our commitment to hunger and poverty. This is not a partisan issue; it is a moral one. In the upcoming budget decisions, Congress must form a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people.

While anti-hunger programs and vital infrastructure investments  are protected in the President’s budget, more work and advocacy are needed to ensure cuts to Medicaid and Medicare programs do not prevent seniors from receiving vital medical treatment

Prior to the release of the President’s budget, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and The Jewish Federations of North America sent a letter to Congress calling on them to oppose radical changes to Medicare and Medicaid that may prevent senior citizens from receiving vital medical treatment:

Within the current framework of Medicaid and Medicare, we believe that it is possible to restrain growth and rein in costs. Any reductions to Medicaid and Medicare should stem from efficiencies that improve service while reducing costs as well as targeted efforts to eradicate fraud, waste, and abuse. The United States is capable of strengthening the long-term viability of these programs without a fundamental restructuring that turns Medicaid into a block grant or Medicare into a voucher.

In part because of last year’s tireless efforts by faith groups and their continued advocacy, President Obama’s FY 13 plan does not include plans to block grant Medicare or Medicaid.

From  Talking Points Memo:

The goal of these reforms is to make these critical programs more effective and efficient, and help make sure our health care system rewards high-quality medicine,” Obama writes. “What it does not do—and what I will not support—are efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher or Medicaid into a block grant. Doing so would weaken both programs and break the promise that we have made to American seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families—a promise I am committed to keeping.

Continued vigilance by faith groups and all concerned citizens  around the country will be crucial to ensuring our neighbors and the most vulnerable people are protected in this ongoing budget fight.

Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

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