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Three bishops urge new U.S. budget priorities

Resources for children should be a priority in developing the U.S. budget, say three United Methodist bishops in a letter to President Bush and Congress. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

By United Methodist News Service
Feb. 15, 2007

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie

Three United Methodist bishops are asking President Bush and the U.S. Congress to place the needs of children and the poor at the heart of the budget debate.

“The debate among elected leaders over the federal budget is at its core a debate over how the nation’s abundance is shared,” the bishops say in a Feb. 15 letter to the president and members of Congress.

“We are alarmed by recent trends in the federal budget that have squeezed investments in education, child care, food nutrition programs and other anti-poverty measures to accommodate dramatic tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens in the United States and to fuel military conflicts abroad. These policies turn the teachings of Christ on their head.”

The letter was signed by Bishops Janice Riggle Huie, president of the Council of Bishops; Gregory Vaughn Palmer, the council’s president-designate; and Beverly Shamana, president of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, which is the social advocacy agency for The United Methodist Church.

The Council of Bishops has focused for years on lifting up the well-being of children and combating poverty, the letter noted. "We will not remain silent as the most vulnerable populations in the United States and around the world are sacrificed at the altars of greed and war."

Bishop Beverly Shamana

Saying the United States is enjoying “unparalleled abundance,” the bishops said the budget “is as much a moral as a financial document.” They called for a “reordering of our nation’s budget priorities” and urged development of “a budget that reflects our shared commitment to justice and compassion for all God’s children.”

Bush, who is a United Methodist, sent his $2.9 trillion spending plan to Congress on Feb. 5. In his written message to Congress, the president said his blueprint “reflects the priorities of our country at this moment in its history,” including keeping the economy strong, protecting the homeland and combating terrorism. Bush said his plan would reduce the U.S. deficit annually and balance the government’s books by 2012.

The Coalition on Human Needs, a coalition partner with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said the Bush budget cuts vital services for the poor, near-poor and middle class and increases funding for the military.

The budget will put $739 billion in tax cuts into the hands of millionaires alone between 2008 and 2017, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an organization that researches and analyzes how proposed budget and tax policies impact budget choices for low-income Americans.

“Spending for education, housing, the environment and other programs requiring annual appropriations will total nearly $392 billion in the Bush budget, $13 billion below the cost of keeping up with inflation,” according to the Coalition on Human Needs. The squeeze would be felt by children losing health insurance, low-income seniors losing food aid and others.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Council of Bishops

Full Text of Bishops' Letter

United Methodist Board of Church and Society

Coalition on Human Needs

Bush Budget

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