Episcopal Church Letter to Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

October 4, 2011

Dear Members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction,

The Episcopal Church urges you to find budget solutions that do not further burden poor and vulnerable populations in the United States, refugees and displaced populations, or impoverished communities around the world. Funding for programs that serve the poor and vulnerable sustains and saves millions of lives at home and around the world and, particularly in times of economic struggle, it must not be cut.

Protecting the poor and vulnerable is a fundamental value of this country and a cornerstone of the Christian faith. Our churches provide assistance and services to those in need in the United States and abroad, but these ministries cannot stand alone. Episcopalians across the country seek your leadership in protecting programs that assist the needy as you and your colleagues work to ensure a stable fiscal future for the United States.

Nearly one in four American children is at risk of hunger. Meanwhile, 19 million people in the Horn of Africa are suffering from famine and drought. Tens of thousands have already died and approximately 750,000 more are predicted to die in the next four months if governments around the world do not increase their financial support.

Yet, the poorest in American have already absorbed roughly 50% of the $1 trillion of cuts to non-defense discretionary spending this year; and international assistance programs bore 20% of last year’s total budget cuts (losing 18% of their funding) and suffered an additional $8 billion reduction in April.

The poor and vulnerable cannot shoulder any more of the nation’s financial burden.

Domestic programs like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and refundable tax credits for low-income working families keep millions of families out of poverty. They are extremely efficient, react quickly to families in need, and vastly improve the health and welfare of American children.

Poverty-focused foreign assistance (which currently represents less than one percent of the federal budget) includes programs that feed 46.5 million impoverished people, prevents more than 114,000 infants from being born with HIV, delivers antiretroviral treatment to nearly 4 million Africans, saves 3 million lives through immunization, and in the last decade has provided safe drinking water sources to 1.3 billion people.

Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA), International Disaster Assistance (IDA), and Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) programs provide basic food, water, medicine, shelter, and safety to displaced persons. Funding cuts would have a deadly impact on those whose lives have already been devastated by war and natural disasters and are now almost entirely dependent on international life-saving assistance.

Deep cuts to programs that ensure the health of Creation and communities will have substantial, and potentially irreversible, short and long-term impacts. These include rising health care costs from air pollution and resulting respiratory problems, increases in premature deaths due to the cumulative impacts of poor air quality, declining water quality in our communities, degradation of public lands and loss of open space.

We recognize the challenges you face as you make recommendations for reducing our deficits by $1.5 trillion, and our Church strongly supports work toward a stable financial future for this nation. However, we remind you that the impact of these accounts on the federal budget is negligible. Their impact in saving and improving lives at home and around the world, however, is enormous.

We urge you to take a balanced and comprehensive approach to deficit reduction that includes consideration of increased revenues alongside cuts to inefficient spending; focuses on the need for economic growth and job creation by fully funding programs that serve low-income people; and invests in national and global security by supporting displaced and vulnerable people around the world.

Please support strong and effective assistance to those in need at home and around the world, and oppose disproportionately deep cuts to programs that are vital to our economic prosperity, global security, and American values. The Episcopal Church will support you in your efforts to find financial solutions that do not come at the expense of our most valuable populations and our most fundamental Christian priorities.

Sincerely yours,

 

Alexander D. Baumgarten,
Director of Government Relations