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Jun 20, 2013

US Budget Plans: Citizen Input Sorely Needed

You’ve heard it said that if you really want to understand anything in politics, you need to “follow the money.” By that standard, Congress is getting down to business as it begins to vote on major Appropriations bills.

For the most crucial programs, the results so far are deeply disturbing.  The House has voted to increase military spending by 5.4%!  And they mean to pay for it by slashing funding on everything else by nearly 20% -- education, health care, emergency food and housing programs, etc.  We need to respond!

Those cuts total 45 billion dollars for domestic and non-defense international programs for the coming fiscal year (which begins Oct. 1).  Appropriations for the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services and in FY 2014 will be cut 18.6 % from the current year. And that comes on top of the already painful cuts required by the infamous sequester. 

Thus the House intends to further slash funding for many safety net and service programs like meals on wheels for seniors, school meals for low income students, food stamps (SNAP) for families, health care and housing assistance, etc. To be blunt, millions of Americans are in trouble if we don’t act. 

Why such large cuts? For one thing, the House ignored the Budget Control Act requirement that half of the $110 billion decrease it mandated must come from the defense budget.  Cutting defense makes sense: the US spends more on military than the rest of the world combined. (China spends only 17% as much as we do.) So in tight financial times, and as we wind down military involvement in Afghanistan, it is simply unbelievable that the House has voted to increase military spending by 5.4%!  And it's even more astonishing that to do so, it reduces domestic and non-defense expenditures far more than was required. 

We urge you to join us in contacting your members of Congress to express how you feel about the FY 2014 appropriation levels voted on by the House.  LPF has joined a sign-on letter from the Coalition on Human Needs to protest these cuts; we urge you to invite your congregation, advocacy committee or community group to discuss and sign it as well  (and as soon as possible).  The Coalition on Human Needs brings together national organizations committed to serving the most vulnerable in our society. The ELCA, Bread for the World and Lutheran Services in America are among its many members.  To read the letter and to share the simple form for a group to sign on, click here. Also, LPF has just updated a computer activity on Budget Priorities exploring these issues in an engaging and interactive way that is great for group discussion and action (includes a leaders guide with handouts).