Preserving a Preferential Option for the Poor During Deficit Reduction

I’ve been doing some work with the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Programs on Christian Stewardship and its implications for the federal budget. Here are some brief excerpts from my work, as well as a link to the longer report. (There are also some state level fact sheets, so if you have an interest in a particular state, please leave a comment and I’ll send you what I have.)

Budgets are moral documents that reflect the priorities of their communities, and responsible Christian stewardship requires advocacy for the appropriate use of shared resources. Since the financial crisis of 2008, there has been increased emphasis on budget priorities as the United States attempts to reduce its deficit. Policymakers have a wide variety of options within the general framework of raising taxes or cutting spending, and Christians are called to advocate for a budget that protects all of God’s people and God’s Creation.

Christians are called to be stewards of the resources that God has entrusted to them (Gen 1:26, 2:15).This includes both private resources that they own individually, as well as public resources that have been entrusted to the community. One of the central actions of proper stewardship is budgeting. This resource examines two elements of the United States federal budget: energy subsidies for fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal); and assistance programs that help the least among us. It looks specifically at opportunities for expanded assistance in the Children’s Health Insurance Program; the Women, Infants, and Children program; the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; Head Start; and water infrastructure if subsidies for fossil fuel energy development were ended.

Here are all of the lovely details, http://nccecojustice.org/network/downloads/energy%20subsidies%20paper%202012.pdf, and here is the conclusion:

Christian stewardship calls for the prioritization of the needs of the vulnerable over the interests of the wealthy. Through public witness, we have an opportunity to influence the way in which we use our shared resources. The 10.17 billion dollars a year that we spend subsidizing fossil fuels could be put to better use by preventing cuts to CHIP, WIC, LIHEAP, and Head Start while also increasing funding for water infrastructure. The proposed and actual cuts analyzed in this paper total 3.86 billion dollars. Another 3.3 billion dollars could insure drinkable water. While cuts proposed in the future may be more or less drastic, it is clear that we could adequately fund all five programs by shifting between 7 and 10 billion dollars away from the fossil fuel industry and towards valuable social programs that protect and provide for the most vulnerable among us and future generations.

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