The budget blueprint for 2018 released by President Trump on Thursday cuts a wide swath through programs that serve women, people of color, those of low income (for poor women of color, that would mean the same old same old), the arts, the environment, education, job creation, and science. Couple it with the proposed health plan released by Congress, and it feels like some elected leaders at the federal level want to freeze, starve, poison, under-employ, and un-inspire a significant portion of the country’s population.
If a budget is a moral document, this one sends a clear message. The most vulnerable among us will be even more endangered. Our planet’s path to irreversible damage will accelerate. Public education and well-funded science aren’t really important because thoughtful inquiry and evidence-based decisions aren’t a priority.
Jesus called us time and again to love one another. This is not a budget based in love.
Looking at 17 of the programs facing cuts, Time magazine reports that their total cost per American is $22.36. These include:
- The Office of Violence Against Women, which works to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault.
- The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which largely funds efforts to help localities improve their policing.
- The Legal Services Corporation, which helps low-income Americans afford legal services.
- The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, which works against discrimination and in support of voting rights.
This does not include, however, cuts to heating assistance for those of low income, nutrition aid to pregnant and nursing women, and grants to low-income college students, among other things. International aid – the kind that allows us to build stability through compassion – also takes a hit.
So much in this proposal would impact most those who have the least that it is difficult to even absorb.
I spoke with a reporter today who asked whether churches might fill in the gaps if some of these cuts move forward. Could faith communities do more to help those in need?
I assured her that churches were already doing plenty. But there is, and should be, a limit to the direct services they can offer. The federal government is supposed to provide for the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for Americans. It is hard to feel free when you are sick, hungry, cold, and poor, when your air and water are polluted, and research that would improve lives by curing diseases is being reduced.
In my perfect world, churches will ultimately put themselves largely out of the direct service business by advocating for policies that limit the need for such programming. While we continue to welcome the immigrant, nurture those in need, and care for creation, we also must make sure our government is fulfilling its obligation to every single one of us.
This is not the budget Jesus would propose. We need to let Congress know that.