What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor? says the Lord God of hosts. (Isaiah 3.15 NRSV)
For many years it has been the Republican Party that has carried the banner of "family values" into political fights. Whether or not they ever had any legitimate claim on such a title is debatable (some might argue laughable) but certainly the question has been settled with certainty now that House Republicans have proposed their federal budget for FY12.
In the faith community we like to say that "budgets are moral documents." The budget proposals put forward by the GOP are anti-family, target those Jesus would have termed the "least of these" in society, and put at risk the health and welfare of children in the United States and abroad. For people of faith, these proposals should be a wakeup call and rally cry to live out the teachings put forth in Holy Scripture with forceful advocacy.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that Republicans aren't even waiting for the next budget. GOP House leaders want cuts now that will impact young people:
Some 157,000 at-risk children up to age 5 could lose education, health, nutrition, and other services under Head Start, while funds for Pell Grants that help students go to college would fall by nearly 25 percent, under a Republican proposal on the House floor to cut current-year (2011) non-security discretionary funding by 13.8 percent. That proposal also would kill a program that helps low-income families weatherize their homes and permanently reduce their home energy bills, cut federal funds for employment and training services for jobless workers and for clean water and safe drinking water by more than half, and raise the risk that the WIC nutrition program may not be able to serve all eligible low-income women, infants, and children under age 5. In addition, it would cut funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 22 percent, for the Food and Drug Administration by 10 percent, and for the Food Safety Inspection Service by 9 percent.
The Washington Post notes that they want to follow-up those cuts with even more draconian spending cuts in their proposed FY12 budget, including cutting "$747 million in food aid for poor pregnant women and women with children up to the age of 5" and reducing "Pell Grants for lower-income college students by $5.6 billion."
The National Low-Income Housing Coalition has said that the GOP's budget proposal would cut "the public housing capital fund by $1.072 billion, more than 40%, endangering public housing households, more than half of whom are elderly and/or disabled, and more than 40% of whom have children" and cut
* USDA Rural Development programs by almost $500 million;
* FEMA's Emergency Food and Shelter grants by 50%;
* HHS funding for community health centers by 46%;
* Community Service Block Grants by 46%; and
* the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program by 66%.
All of this at a time of record poverty brought about by the economic policies enacted by President George W. Bush and the last GOP Congress.
The wealthiest Americans will still get their tax breaks.
Republicans would also defund health care reform -- increasing the deficit and cutting off over 30 million people from receiving health insurance -- and, as has been blogged at Think Progress, eliminate the funds necessary to protect the environment, God's own creation.
In theological terms, these proposed cuts are a sin. They would harm the most vulnerable among us and endanger the planet. There is no getting around it with soft words: the House GOP budget is an immoral document -- they are grinding the face of the poor -- and Christians and other people of faith should strongly oppose these proposals at the same time that we challenge President Obama to do more in these areas. The president has said he is willing to compromise with congressional leaders. But in his State of the Union Address, President Obama also said the budget could not be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable. Any compromise with the House on these issues would break the backs of the most vulnerable and be a betrayal of the principles President Obama has articulated in terms of both his personal faith and his governing philosophy.
Our national church bodies and local religious leaders should take the led in fighting these cuts. We can be -- and we should be -- civil in our debates over the direction of our nation but we cannot be silent in the face of such harmful economic policies. This is a time for principled action and how religious leaders respond will be a test of our faithfulness.