Washington D.C., May 23, 2017 / 03:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Leading U.S. bishops have expressed serious concerns with President Donald Trump’s reported budget proposals for the 2018 fiscal year, noting among other fears that the proposals would decrease funding for diplomacy efforts while increasing military spending.
“The human consequences of budget choices are clear to us as pastors,” leaders of various committees of the U.S. bishops’ conference wrote to members of Congress in a May 19 letter. “The moral measure of the federal budget is how well it promotes the common good of all, especially the most vulnerable whose voices are too often missing in these debates,” the bishops continued.
President Trump’s budget proposal for FY 2018 — to be released on Tuesday — will reportedly make deep cuts to Medicaid and other programs, and would eliminate entirely some programs that are tailored toward low-income persons, while increasing military spending and immigration enforcement funding. Food stamps could see $193 billion in cuts over a decade, according to the AP. Farm subsidies could also be cut.
Leading bishops wrote members of Congress on May 19 saying that proposals in the budget would be “profoundly troubling.” The signatories included Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, head of the committee on pro-life activities; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, chair of the committee on international justice and peace; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair of the domestic justice and human development committee; and Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the migration committee.
Especially troubling, the bishops said, are the increases to military spending, when the U.S. already outspends all other countries in this area, and cuts to foreign assistance and diplomacy at a time when conflicts around the world threaten to destabilize whole regions. The Syrian civil war, for instance, has displaced more than 11 million and created almost six million registered refugees. “Our nation should elevate diplomacy and international development as primary tools for promoting peace, regional stability and human rights, not adopt deep cuts to these budgets,” the bishops wrote.
The U.S. already spends more on its military than at least the next seven countries combined, according to estimates from the fact-checking website PolitiFact. When considering hikes to defense spending, the U.S. should remember that just wars can only be waged as a “last resort” and “within strict moral limits of proportionality, discrimination and probability of success,” the bishops emphasized. Also, they added, the U.S. must exercise gratitude toward the members of the military and remember “the stress of repeated deployments over the years.”
The bishops reminded Congress that they have “repeatedly called for robust diplomatic efforts to end longstanding conflicts in a range of countries, including Syria and Iraq.” “It is hard to reconcile the need for diplomacy and political solutions with significant cuts to the State Department budget,” the bishops wrote.
And cuts to foreign international aid programs might not only hurt the poor, but could pose threats to the security of areas afflicted by war, drought, and famine, as well as to U.S. national security, they added. Famine has already been declared in South Sudan, and famines could be breaking out soon in three other countries.
The bishops maintained the legitimacy “of reducing future unsustainable deficits that would harm all citizens,” yet insisted upon “a comprehensive approach” to reduce deficits and not one that cuts only in certain areas while increasing spending in others. “A just framework for sound fiscal policy cannot rely almost exclusively on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons,” they wrote.
“The Catholic Bishops of the United States stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a federal budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people, and advances peace and the common good,” the letter concluded.