Here’s an open letter to Congressional leaders from John Lally, a parishioner from Holy Name of Mary in Croton who is active in Catholic causes:
This year the annual Offering of Letters, sponsored by Bread for the World, is urging Congress to stand up for poor and hungry people at home and abroad by protecting funding for critical programs that alleviate hunger and help lift people out of poverty.
A year ago as a national debate raged over federal deficits and budgets, religious and humanitarian groups, including Bread for the World, were able to prevent major federal budget cuts to programs that meet essential needs of hungry and poor people in the U.S. and abroad. Fifty ordained and lay leaders from a wide representation of Christian traditions, who threw up a ”Circle of Protection” around such programs, were at the forefront of those speaking out in advocacy for the moral principle of a priority for the hungry and homeless, those without work or in poverty — “the least of these.” For those advocates, through the lens of the Judeo-Christian tradition (cf. Proverbs 31:8-9 and Matthew 25:31-46), such budget cuts are an assault against the very people whom God specifically instructs us to protect, and whose well-being is the biblical test of a nation’s moral character.
However, as this election year has unfolded and budget priorities have again become debating points, threats to poverty-related domestic and international programs are far from gone. The House has already passed a FY 2013 budget which severely and disproportionately cuts programs for hungry and poor people, eliminating protections Congress agreed to in last August’s Budget Control Act.
Programs poor and hungry people are a lifeline for millions of families. For example, in 2010, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) lifted some 5 million people out of poverty. The Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit lifted 9.3 million people out of poverty. Last year, emergency food aid helped 46.5 million poor people. Over the last decade, foreign assistance programs provided safe drinking water for nearly 1.3 billion people around the world. In other words, time and again, such programs have proven effective in addressing hunger and helping families move out of poverty.
The cuts to these programs in the House budget won’t significantly reduce the federal deficit, but at this time of continued unemployment and high levels of poverty they will have a devastating impact on vulnerable people. For example, the budget slashes SNAP by more than $130 billion, which could drop more than 8 million people from the program (76 percent of households that receive food stamps include a child, senior or person with a disability). The budget also cuts funding for international programs such as food aid and poverty-focused foreign assistance by another 11 percent for next year, and calls for further cuts that would endanger lives and allow global hunger and poverty to increase.
The viewpoint of advocates of the circle of protection on the federal budget and deficit might be summed up in the following quotes from a letter recently sent to Congress by U.S. Catholic bishops:
Our nation has an obligation to address the impact of future deficits on the health of the economy, to ensure stability and security for future generations, and to use limited resources efficiently and effectively….A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons; it requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.
The challenge to creating a circle of protection around programs that impact poor and hungry people at home and abroad did not end with the vote by the House of Representatives. The next stage is the appropriations process in both the House and Senate, permeated by other Congressional bills that are in the pipeline.
Though the vulnerable may not have SuperPACs or teams of lobbyists fighting for them, they do have those of us willing to advocate for them. It is up to people of faith and of conscience to push back. Too often, injustice is perpetuated because good people stand on the side lines or feel disempowered to act.
Therefore, for this year’s Offering of Letters Bread for the World asks citizens to urge Congress to support a circle of protection around programs that help poor families and vulnerable children in the United States and abroad and to oppose the disproportionate cuts to them in the House budget.
Bread for the World is a nationwide, interdenominational Christian movement for the hungry and poor of the nation and the world. Each year it leads a letter-writing campaign that helps people of conscience speak up to our nation’s leaders. These Offering of Letters campaigns help pass specific, effective legislation that makes a difference in the lives of hungry and poor people.
This will be the 34th year that Asbury United Methodist Church, Holy Name of Mary Roman Catholic Church, Our Saviour Evangelical Lutheran Church, and St. Augustine Episcopal Church in Croton are participating.
Thus, parishioners in the four Croton churches are being encouraged to write appropriate letters to Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510) and Congresswoman Nan Hayworth (U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515); then, to place their letters, in stamped addressed envelopes, into the collection basket as an offering of their citizenship at worship services on this Sunday April 29th, or the following Sunday. Other members of the Croton area are invited to join in the letter writing effort by mailing their letters directly.
For more information about Bread for the World and the Offering of Letters, go online to www.bread.org.