PRESS RELEASE: Catholics Ask Archbishop Dolan: “What Anti-Poverty Programs Would Jesus Cut?”

Posted May 23, 2011

Catholics United asks Archbishop to defend the poor, not tax breaks for the wealthy

Washington DC - On May 18th, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, wrote a letter to Congressman Paul Ryan, a practicing Catholic and chairman of the budget committee of the House of Representatives, and commended Ryan for his attention to Catholic moral priorities. Catholics United acting executive director, James Salt, issued the follow statement in response to Dolan's letter:

“Archbishop Dolan's commendation of Rep. Paul Ryan shocks the conscience of all Catholics and people of faith who care about the poor and vulnerable. Rep. Ryan's budget makes unprecedented cuts to support services for the poor while maintaining a bloated defense budget and tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. Given this, Catholics United asks Archbishop Dolan; 'Which of Paul Ryan's proposed cuts to anti-poverty programs does he actually find commendable?'

Does Archbishop Dolan support Ryan's proposed $2.17 trillion cuts to Medicaid and related health care? How about the $350 billion in cuts in mandatory programs that serve low-income Americans, including $126 billion in cuts to education, training, employment, and social services? Or does Archbishop Dolan support the proposed $400 billion in cuts to low-income discretionary programs that will certainly reduce Pell grants and access to low-income housing?

Catholic social teaching has long held that policies and policy makers must embrace a preferential option for the poor. In fact, the bishops who oversee the domestic and international policy offices for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed concern about the House budget proposal in a letter to representatives last month. Given the large budget cuts that will adversely affect the poor in Rep. Ryan's budget, Catholics United believes that Archbishop Dolan's comments have confused Church teaching and we ask that he clarify his position."

According to research by the Coalition on Human Needs, Rep. Ryan's budget will adversely affect the poor with the following cuts:

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Medicaid: Medicaid, which now serves more than 58 million low-income people, including the elderly, people with disabilities, children, and pregnant women, would be changed to a block grant and cut by more than 20 percent. By design, funding would grow more slowly than actual health care costs, shifting the responsibility to states to manage the growing shortfalls. Giving states inadequate funding will result in more cuts that will reduce or deny health care to millions, from infants to the elderly in nursing homes. Further, the massive cuts in Medicaid are estimated by the Economic Policy Institute to result in the loss of 2.9 million full-time-equivalent jobs over 5 years.
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De-Funding the Affordable Care Act: The budget proposal eliminates funding for Medicaid expansions and insurance subsidies called for in the health care reform law, keeping health coverage unaffordable for millions and foregoing savings from health care systems changes.
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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps): SNAP, which serves more than 44 million people in need, is also turned into a block grant with limited funding. SNAP was a very successful program before the recession and has been crucial during the recession in meeting vastly increased need among people who lost jobs or income, with its caseload rising 20 percent from 2009 to 2010. A block grant would end its strength as a powerful counter-cyclical force.
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Housing Assistance: Although federal rental assistance has not expanded the number of available units, it has kept pace with private-market rental costs to limit a household’s share of rent to a fixed percentage of its income. The Budget Resolution would require low-income renters to pay more and would subject them to arbitrary time limits and work requirements as well that may not reflect actual conditions of local housing markets.
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Education: The budget would cut funding for education programs in FY12 by $ 17.7 billion, nearly 19 percent, and by a total of $250 billion over ten years. Discretionary Pell grant funds for low-income college students would be cut at least 60% and mandatory funding would be eliminated. This unprecedented cut would drastically reduce the maximum award for over nine million low- and middle-income students, likely denying college access to many of them. Draconian cuts to early childhood, elementary and secondary, career, technical and adult and higher education programs would completely reverse progress on improving student achievement, devastate our nation’s education system, and harm America’s economic future.
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Further Dramatic Reductions in Human Needs Services: Just as the House majority legislative proposal to finish out the current fiscal year (H.R. 1) targeted cuts very disproportionately at important services including Head Start, child care, health care, housing, home energy assistance, emergency food, anti-poverty community services, jobs programs for youth and adults, services for women and children trying to escape domestic violence, and many others, it is likely that the $1.6 trillion in cuts over 10 years to appropriations other than defense, veterans and homeland security will fall heavily on low-income and working families. This is not just unfair; it threatens the health, development, education and job readiness of millions of children and youth and therefore compromises our future economic competitiveness.
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Ending Medicare as a Guaranteed Insurance Plan and Shifting Costs to the Elderly: For people now in their early fifties and younger, the Budget Resolution would end Medicare as we know it. Starting in 2022, seniors would purchase private insurance with federal support that would grow more inadequate over time, since funding would increase less than medical cost inflation. Under this plan, the share of the health insurance cost paid by a 65-year-old person would increase dramatically, according to the Congressional Budget Office. If the current Medicare program remained in place, a 65year-old would be paying 25 percent of the cost of his or her insurance in 2030; under this proposal, the costs would skyrocket to 68 percent.
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Failure to Seek Savings in the Military: The Budget Resolution assumes $215 billion more in military spending over 10 years than the CBO baseline, while non-military appropriations would be cut by $1.6 trillion. This is in contrast to the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan, which identified approximately $100 billion in annual military cuts that could be achieved without risk to national security.
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Additional Tax Cuts for the Wealthiest and Corporations: The Budget Resolution not only rejects the idea that additional revenues should play any role in deficit reduction – it proposes unprecedented additional tax cuts for those who already have the most. In addition to the $125,000 a year that millionaires would receive from making the 2001-2003 tax cuts permanent, the proposal would drastically reduce the top income tax rates for individuals and corporations (from 35 percent to 25 percent) and permanently extend the further reductions to the estate tax for multi-million dollar estates that were inserted in last year’s year-end tax deal. The Budget Resolution refers to making up the lost revenue from reductions in unspecified tax expenditures. Slashing the highest tax rates while reducing services and benefits for those with the lowest incomes and likely increasing taxes on the middle class and the poor will exacerbate already widening inequality.

For more information, visit:

Archbishop Dolan's Letter to Paul Ryan:

http://budget.house.gov/UploadedFiles/DolanResponsetoRyan5_18.pdf

Coalition on Human Needs letter to Congress:

http://www.chn.org/pdf/2011/NatlRyanBudgetSignOn.pdf

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of the Ryan budget and its affect on the poor:

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3451

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