Catholic Online, February 7, 2007
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Catholic Online) The proposed $2.9 billion U.S. government budget proposed by the Bush Administration is a moral document that misses the mark in reducing poverty, with draconic cuts that will hurt Americas poor families, said the president of the nations largest Catholic social service networks.
"The president's budget misses the mark on reducing poverty in America, said Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, the day after the fiscal year 2008 budget proposal was released Feb. 5.
In fact, with cuts to key programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, the president's budget will only serve to exacerbate the problems facing millions of our nation's poor families," Father Snyder said, noting that there are drastic cuts and changes to a range of programs that address the health and well-being of low-income families and individuals.
President George W. Bush is seeking to rein in domestic spending as part of a plan to balance the budget in five years without raising taxes while increasing funding for the Iraq war and permanently expanding the military.
The $2.9 trillion budget attempts to tighten spending on health care, education, housing and other domestic programs during the last two years of the Bush Administration. The new budget seeks to reduce the rate of growth in Medicare and Medicaid, cutting $101 billion from both over the next five years.
The Bush fiscal 2008 budget would provide another boost for war, defense and diplomatic spending, including $623 billion for the military of which $141 billion is for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $50 billion as a partial payment on the president's plan to permanently increase the size of the armed forces by 92,000 over the next five years.
The Catholic Charities USA president expressed alarm that just two weeks after the president State of the Union address, in which he acknowledged the nation's health-care crisis, the budget recommends cutting more than $100 billion from Medicaid, Medicare and other critical health-care programs over five years.
"The president's new budget hurts those living in poverty at a time when we should be doing even more to help the most vulnerable among us, Father Snyder said. America needs to strengthen vital social service programs to help those in need, not weaken those programs."
According to Catholic Charities USA, the President's budget contains other painful cuts and changes to vital health and social service programs will harm vulnerable families, children and individuals across the country. Among the most alarming cuts, according to the charities network are in the following areas:
- Health Care. The Bush Administration proposes deep cuts to health care programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare, the State Children's Health Insurance Program and substance abuse and mental health programs, which will impact some of the most vulnerable Americans, including seniors, low-income children and the disabled.
- Hunger. The administration proposes to eliminate Food Stamp eligibility for approximately 300,000 people in working families with children who are not receiving cash assistance. The budget also proposes to eliminate funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides funding for the elderly and nutritionally vulnerable pregnant women and their children.
- Housing. The administration proposes deep cuts to services and housing programs administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Most troubling among these recommendations are cuts to the Housing for the Elderly Section 202 Program by nearly a quarter and calls for funding HUD's Housing for Persons with Disabilities 811 Program to be reduced by half.
- Economic Security. The administration's proposal eliminates funding for the Community Services Block Grant, which funds a range of services to address the needs of low income individuals. The budget further proposes to significantly cut the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income persons meet their home heating costs. The budget proposal also calls for reducing the federal commitment to abused and neglected children in the nation's foster-care system.
"The federal budget is a moral document that serves to tell us where we place our priorities," Father Snyder said.
"At a time when our nation is experiencing an ever widening gap between those who have resources and those who do not, we are disappointed that the president's proposal does not go far enough to address the basic needs of those live in poverty, he said.
Catholic Charities USA recently launched its Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America, a new multi-year initiative to cut poverty in half by 2020, by urging U.S. Congress and the Bush Administration to give a much higher priority to the needs of the 37 million Americans living in poverty in policy and budget decisions on issues such as health care, housing, nutrition and economic security.
"As part of our campaign, we will measure policymakers' budget and policy proposals in terms of how they strengthen or weaken family life and how they address the dignity of the human person to have access to adequate food, shelter, health care and economic security," said Father Snyder.
"Our government leaders must give a higher priority in making budget decisions to the needs of those living in poverty, he said, noting that the administrations proposed budget too often makes the wrong choice, one that either fails to help the most vulnerable among us or makes their challenges even harder.
We're calling on Congress to fix this budget to ensure that it meets the needs of low-income families and individuals and take the critical first steps to cutting the poverty rate in half in the years to come," he said.
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