The federal budget proposal released by the Trump administration on Monday has been met with worry from U.S. bishops who stressed the need to protect the poor.
“Budget decisions ought to be guided by moral criteria that safeguard human life and dignity, give central importance to ‘the least of these,’ and promote the well-being of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity,” read a statement released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Feb. 13.
“Yesterday, President Trump unveiled a budget plan, ‘Efficient, Effective, Accountable: An American Budget,’ that again calls for deep cuts to vital parts of government, including underfunding programs that serve the poor, diplomacy, and environment stewardship,” the statement continued.
The bishops commended certain aspects of the budget request, which would prohibit organizations that perform abortions from receiving federal funding, and would pump $13 billion into fighting the opioid crisis. However, they also expressed concern on other aspects, including immigration enforcement and the boost in military spending.
The statement was signed by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the USA Military Services, who chairs the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, who heads the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
The proposal, which was sent to Congress Feb. 12, outlines a $4.4 trillion budget. It would boost military spending by $195 billion over the next two years, and cut federal entitlement programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps, by $1.8 trillion. Some parts of the food stamp program would be replaced for eligible participants with a premade box of American-produced food items.
The new budget would also boost spending for infrastructure improvements and cut funding to the State Department and foreign aid. It would set aside $18 billion for border security, including build a wall on the southern border of Mexico and hiring additional border security personnel.
Through the budget, the administration projected an economic growth of 3.1 percent over the next three years. The New York Times reported that it would also add $984 billion to the federal deficit next year.
“We urge Congress — and every American — to evaluate the Administration’s budget blueprint in light of its impacts on those most in need, and work to ensure a budget for our country that honors our obligations to build toward the common good,” the bishops said.
International humanitarian agency Catholic Relief Services also criticized the new proposal.
Under the new budget, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) would have its funds cut by more than one-third, which would limit its capacity to provide food assistance and aid. The new policies would also slash food security spending by more than $1 billion, which would effectively throw out food aid programs and the Global Food Security Act.
“Humanitarian assistance provides life-saving aid; we cannot cut now, when 30 million people face famine,” said Bill O’Keefe, the vice president of government relations and advocacy for Catholic Relief Services, in a Feb. 13 press release.
“At a time when hunger is increasing around the world, now is not the time to cut back on helping communities grow more food,” O’Keefe continued, adding that “underfunding this area will only lead to more destabilizing food emergencies in the future.”
He also pointed to the budget’s cuts to microfinance, water, education, and anti-trafficking efforts, calling the proposal “short-sighted,” and urging Congress to place more emphasis on food assistance and international aid in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
“The United States is a generous nation that has led the global community in responding to catastrophe and providing opportunity to the poor and the marginalized,” O’Keefe said.
“But even beyond the fundamental humanitarian and moral imperative to fund foreign aid, poverty-reducing international assistance is in the best interest of our country. Deep and disproportionate cuts to development aid and diplomacy will only exacerbate the problems we face today and leave a vacuum for new crises to fester tomorrow.”