Congressional budget: What would Jesus cut?

By David Beckmann As an economist, I believe we should make decisions based on facts and data. As a minister, … Continued

By David Beckmann

As an economist, I believe we should make decisions based on facts and data.

As a minister, I believe that our national budget is a moral document that reveals, starkly and undeniably, our nation’s priorities.

What I’ve learned in both roles tells me that we cannot fix our federal budget problems by cutting programs for our nation’s most vulnerable people and for some of the poorest people in the world–and we shouldn’t try to.

The House voted recently to cut significant amounts of money from such programs in the seven remaining months of fiscal year 2011. If the cuts were finalized, their effects would be felt immediately.

There is no doubt we must get our fiscal house in order. It’s not optional. But the fact is that the money spent on U.S. anti-poverty programs makes a great deal more difference to low-income families than it would to reducing the deficit. The amounts add up to a drop in a sea of red budget ink. But for millions of low-income Americans, they mean the difference between running out of food before the end of the month, and eating well enough to do one’s best at school or work.

The House package includes cuts to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which serves 9 million low-income babies, preschool children, and pregnant women each year, including half of all infants in the United States. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that each dollar of WIC funding saves $2 to $3 in Medicaid costs. And good nutrition in the first two years of life has proven critical–meaning that damage caused by malnutrition at this age is largely irreversible. WIC helps protect our children’s health and our country’s future.

The cuts passed by the House would also eliminate nutrition programs for 18 million of the world’s hungriest and poorest people, including 15 million people suffering from hunger due to natural disasters and conflicts, and 2.5 million children who get a meal at school thanks to the American people.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I visited the town of Thakurgaon, Bangladesh, where I had worked in 1975. Though the country is still very poor, programs such as those that provide school lunches have contributed to changes for the better that were evident all over town. Children looked healthy and wore colorful school uniforms.

When Jesus talked about how God will judge nations, he said God will focus on what we did or did not do for the neediest among us. Taking care of “the least of these” should be among our nation’s top priorities. It should not be among the first of our responsibilities in line for cuts.

I urge Congress not to attempt to balance the budget at the expense of vulnerable people. It won’t solve the problem, and it’s not what Jesus would do.

David Beckmann, World Food Prize laureate, is president of Bread for the World and a Lutheran minister.

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  • areyousaying

    One of the reasons I left the Lutheran Church as a teen was because their clergy were very milk-toast and would never say anything against the Government and especially against the Viet Nam war. It’s refreshing to find a Lutheran Minister who is not afraid to speak out.By the way, Pastor Beckmann, did you know you and all your fellow Lutherans are Nazi’s and you’re not as smart as Jews?”Except of course, when a Nazi Lutheran spews antisemitic vile (available on request) on this rabbi’s page as well as everywhere else.Like most Nazis, including Martin Luther (whose “The Jews and Their Lies) was a seminal text of the Reich, quoted by Hitler and the Sturmer), Luther this person’s hero, he gets his panties all in a twist when Jews stand up for their own selves. Gets irate when they give as good as they get from the likes of this creature.Better get used to it, Dik, for as long as you continue your racist, Nazi ways. For that long a time, for as long as you attempt to silence me and every Jew who speaks out against racism, who accepts her identity with pride, you will get as good as you give. And, in most cases, better.Jews are smarter than you. Much, much smarter. Not only morally superior than YOU, but smarter.Posted by: Farnaz2Mansouri21

  • usapdx

    HE was and still is to stay out of government bussiness as all religions MUST do in the U.S.A..

  • WmarkW

    To be honest, Jesus wasn’t much of an economist or politician. Anyone who can feed 5,000 people with a few fish, probably hasn’t developed a skill set that requires saying “no” to anyone.

  • Chagasman

    The Republican agenda just proves that there are an awful lot of hypocritical cross-wavers in their party. Mean-spirited evil scumbags would snatch the food out of a baby’s mouth if it cost them a penny in taxes.