Faith leaders often say that budgets are moral documents. That being the case, Paul Ryan has offered in his new House GOP budget proposal a vision of a morally bankrupt American society.
Earlier this year religious communities came together and wrote President Obama and Congress asking that our government:
"Help us reduce hunger and poverty by expanding opportunity and justice, promoting economic growth and good paying jobs, stabilizing family life, and protecting the well being of children."
The Ryan budget would have the opposite impact. It would, in fact, increase poverty and cause suffering. This is not what a moral America looks like.
Thirty million Americans would see health care benefits disappear, seniors would be required to pay more for health care, food stamps -- a critical resource for children and families -- would be cut, and the wealthiest Americans would get even more tax breaks.
Ryan's proposed cuts are extreme. He would eliminate more than $800 billion over 10 years in domestic programs. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted today: "Ryan's new budget, like last year's, apparently seeks to camouflage the severity of many of its cuts in programs for the needy by leaving most of this $800 billion in cuts unspecified. The budget math shows, however, that most of these cuts likely would come from benefits and services for the least fortunate Americans."
It will be important for people of faith to swiftly respond to Ryan's proposals. Christians, for example, who are sometimes divided on difficult social issues are generally united in opposing the governing philosophy behind Ryan's budget. We are called to care for the widow and the orphan -- to lift up children and those Jesus called the least of these -- but Ryan's budget proposals would further dismantle the safety net and tear the social fabric of our nation apart.
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK and founder of Nuns on the Bus, was speaking for many Christians -- Roman Catholic, mainline and evangelical -- when she said: "Rep. Ryan's cuts to vital human-needs programs to benefit the wealthy must be defeated. We are a nation for the 100 percent, and his budget cuts are both immoral and counter to our values."
Ryan's allies will say caring for those in poverty is the responsibility of churches and charities. Many faith communities undertake heroic efforts to address poverty and other social problems but we cannot solve these issues alone nor should we be expected to. We want to be in partnership with government and other private entities but proposals such as those advanced by Ryan make our work more difficult by enacting policies that force more people into poverty. Faith-based programs, which often operate on small budgets and with volunteers, are already overwhelmed.
America can and should be better than Paul Ryan envisions it. Our nation should be a place where we are our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper. We are not a morally bankrupt nation, and so we must oppose Paul Ryan's proposals so that every child, every senior, every American has a fighting chance to live a good and decent life.