White House And Congressional Leaders Urged To Reduce Deficit Without Increasing Poverty

A recent Facebook post by Half in Ten: The Campaign to Cut Poverty in Half in Ten Years alerted us to a news release put out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities announcing a collective letter written by “prominent national religious, civil rights, charitable, economic research, and low-income advocacy organizations” to insist that our policy makers reduce the deficit without increasing poverty. The letter cites the precedent of bipartisan budgets that have accomplished this goal in the past, and implores our leaders to take a similar approach during today’s difficult economic times. You can find the official news release complete with contact information and statements from all 25 signatories here.  Full text of the letter and the list of signatories is copied below.

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President Barack Obama      
Vice President Joe Biden
Speaker of the House John Boehner 
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi    
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Dear Mr. President; Mr. Vice President; Speaker Boehner; Minority Leader Pelosi; Majority Leader Reid; Minority Leader McConnell:

We write to urge you to follow a key bedrock principle included in prior bipartisan deficit reduction efforts and espoused by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson:  protect programs for low-income families and individuals and make sure that deficit reduction is achieved in a way that does not increase poverty.

Any agreement on deficit reduction should neither cut low-income assistance programs directly nor subject these programs to cuts under automatic enforcement mechanisms.  Cuts to programs that help low-income people meet their basic needs or provide them with opportunity to obtain decent education and employment would inevitably increase poverty and hardship.

The major bipartisan deficit reduction packages of recent decades have adhered to the principle we espouse here.  In fact, all deficit reduction packages enacted in the 1990s reduced poverty and helped the disadvantaged even as they shrank deficits.  In addition, every automatic budget cut mechanism of the past quarter-century has exempted core low-income assistance programs from any automatic across-the-board cuts triggered when budget targets or fiscal restraint rules were missed or violated.  The 1985 and 1987 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings laws, the 1990 Budget Enforcement Act, the 1993 deficit reduction package, the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, and the 2010 pay-as-you-go law all exempted core low-income programs from automatic cuts.

The United States already has higher levels of poverty and inequality than most other Western nations.  We agree that we must address future deficits and put our nation on a sustainable fiscal course.  But that need not — and should not — entail increasing poverty and hardship or inequality, as various past deficit reduction packages demonstrate.  Indeed, the 1990, 1993, and 1997 deficit reduction packages, which improved the Earned Income Tax Credit, strengthened the SNAP program or created the Children’s Health Insurance Program, show that reducing poverty and expanding effective low-income assistance programs is fully consistent with deficit reduction.

In recent weeks, an unprecedented coalition of Evangelical, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, African-American, and Latino Christian leaders have joined together to advance this principle of protecting people with low incomes in the current budget debate.  They have issued a joint statement calling on policymakers to draw a “Circle of Protection” around programs that meet the basic needs of low-income people, both at home and abroad.  We applaud this effort and add our voices to it.  We call for Congress and the White House to commit to the principle of protecting low-income people in deficit reduction.

Sincerely,

Diana Aviv, President and CEO,
Independent Sector
  Ambassador Tony P. Hall, Executive Director, Alliance to End Hunger
United States Congressman, Retired
Ian Bautista, President,
United Neighborhood Centers of America
  Wade Henderson, President and CEO,
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
David Beckmann, President,
Bread for the World
  Alan Houseman, President and Executive Director,
Center for Law and Social Policy
Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director,
Center for Community Change
  Janet Murguía, President and CEO,
National Council of La Raza
Melissa Boteach, Manager,
Half in Ten
  Christine Owens, Executive Director,
National Employment Law Project
Nancy Duff Campbell, Co-President,
National Women’s Law Center
  John Podesta, President and CEO,
Center for American Progress
Sheila Crowley, President and CEO,
National Low Income Housing Coalition
  Ron Pollack, Executive Director,
Families USA
Marian Wright Edelman, President,
Children’s Defense Fund
  Hilary O. Shelton, Director,
NAACP Washington Bureau & Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy
Vicki Escarra, President and CEO,
Feeding America
  Bill Shore, Executive Director,
Share Our Strength
Brian Gallagher, President and CEO,
United Way Worldwide
  Jim Wallis, President and CEO,
Sojourners
Peter Goldberg, CEO,
Alliance for Children and Families
  James Weill, President,
Food Research and Action Center
Robert Greenstein, President,
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director,
Coalition on Human Needs
    Rev. Heyward Wiggins, Co-Chair PICO National Network Steering Committee

1 Comment

  1. Pamela

    To much is given, much is expected. The wealthy need to give back to their communites, and pay more taxes. This is just greed and it is common sense, if you make that much money, you should pay your share that is equal to your wealth. I am tired of the GOVT. picking on the poor people, the corruption begins at the top. Penna. has money and cutting all human service programs WHY? We need to get back to the basics and helping our neighbor. The poor people did not create this mess, you did- Govt. officials so don;t take from the seniors, children and indigent individuals. God knows and sees your actions.

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