Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Faith and the Federal Budget

Below is an action alert that I worked on at The Church Council of greater Seattle- it outlines the fiscal cliff and provides a letter that you can adapt and send to your representatives in Congress. 

The Fiscal Cliff Background:

The "fiscal cliff" is a term that is used to describe a series of expiring tax policies and spending cuts set to take effect in January 2013. The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires that, because Congress has failed to pass a bill reducing the deficit by $1.2 trillion dollars, across-the-board budget cuts for that amount will occur for mandatory and discretionary spending in the years 2013-2021. This will begin with $110 billion of automatic cuts starting on January 2nd 2013. Significant impacts will be felt after the first few months of 2013 if a bill is not passed.  The Church Council of Greater Seattle calls upon faith communities to stand together to ensure that our voices will be heard on this issue.

As people of faith, we must recognize both the reality of the situation, as well as the foundational principles that we are called to act upon. We know that God is especially concerned with the plight of poor and vulnerable people - and that a key moral measure of the federal budget is how it treats those Jesus called "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45). The voices of those most affected need to be lifted up. Any deficit reduction agreement should maintain a circle of protection around poor and vulnerable people, reducing federal deficits without increasing poverty. 

As Washingtonians, we have a unique role to play in this national issue. As a current member, and expected to be the new Chair, of the Senate Budget Committee, our Senator Patty Murray plays a key leadership role in these negotiations. While Senator Murray has been a strong ally in addressing hunger and poverty, she needs to hear about the core values that her constituents want to see reflected in her decisions; she needs to hear that we are expecting a deal that offers explicit protection for individuals who are relying on federal monies for basic needs, includinghousing and food.

At this critical juncture, deficit reduction is important. However,a balanced approach is necessary: one that does not further the suffering of people who are struggling to feed their families. Progressive taxation ought to assist in minimizing the growinginequality in our country and ensure that a fair share of the tax burden is carried by those who can most afford it. Curbing defense spending also should be part of a moral budget that prioritizes people in need and all working families.

The Church Council of Greater Seattle urges you to write letters to your representatives in Congress, including Senator Patty Murray, and ask for their commitment to creating a budget solution that is not balanced on the backs of people experiencing poverty. 

Please write your letters as soon as possible so that your voice can be factored into the decision making process.

To find your representatives in Congress go here.

To email Senator Patty Murray, click here.

To email Senator Maria Cantwell, click here.

LetterThe Letter:  

Below is a letter to which you can add your own story and send to your federal representatives. Please note the red section of the letter must be either replaced or deleted.


As our nation faces a great decision regarding our financial future, I urge you to consider the principles that guide us and to act for the common good. The "fiscal cliff" that we face has caused extensive debate on where we can afford to spend less and how revenue can be increased, both of which are necessary in order to ensure long-term stability. We know that God is especially concerned with the plight of poor and vulnerable people - and that a key moral measure of the federal budget is how it treats those Jesus called "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45). I can see the way that many people in my community are struggling. The federal government plays an essential role along with local government and non-profits, including the faith community, in the survival of many. 

As a person of faith, I urge you to protect the vital services that many rely on to sustain their basic needs or keep them from slipping into poverty.

Please share your own story of how you, your congregation, or your community is working to address poverty. Explain that the efforts you are making are not enough, and you are looking to your elected officials to work with you by passing legislation that ensures this circle of protection.

We cannot accept a budget that is balanced on the backs of those who are already struggling. We must care for our neighbors in need and re-draw our nation's priorities.  Defense spending should not take priority over caring for the most vulnerable among us.  Budget cuts should be done in a way that allows us to live into our values of a fair, progressive tax system that reduces inequality, while establishing a circle of protection around households facing economic instability.   

I appreciate your leadership through these challenging decisions, and I pray that people from both sides of the aisle can respectively reach across so that a collaborative solution can be found. Just as the Good Samaritan did, this must be an action that will protect and serve those we are called to walk with, instead of leaving them further behind for reasons of political expediency.

In Faith,

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