Talk of balancing the federal budget by cutting social services is rampant in Congress this week as the Republicans mark up their annual budget proposal.
American Bishops and Catholic organizations have come together to oppose budgets like this one that are “morally bankrupt,” denouncing plans that try to balance the budget at the expense of the poor; plans that put capital before the common good.
I would like to add one more group’s voice in opposition the GOP plan: the voice of the youth.
I come from the Millennial generation: the generation that is considered exceptionally socially conscious, the generation that believes money is not the best measure of success, the generation that has the technology, the ability, and the will to make a real difference for people. We have been blessed with the foolishness to believe we can change the world.
I’m proud to be part of the generation that is known as the “socially minded” generation, but if we say we care about poverty, the wealth gap and equal rights, then we should be particularly concerned about the budget. This week’s budget proposal will set our national priorities for an entire year.
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We “socially minded” Millennials should care that Congress is suggesting $1.3 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy, while letting go of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, two of the most important federal mechanisms for helping people out of poverty. We should care that Congress is considering significant limitations to SNAP, a program that helps millions of children, seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, jobless adults seeking work, and those working — often at multiple jobs — just to make ends meet. We should care that the Medicaid block grant and repealing the Affordable Care Act may cause many people to become uninsured or underinsured. We should care that Congress is trying to increase military spending through a secret fund that doesn’t hit the bottom line, while cutting housing and food for families.
Socially minded Millennials should be up in arms because if the plan is to balance the budget with no additional revenue, then the brunt of cuts will be felt by low- and moderate-income Americans.
As the budgets are marked up and talk in Congress centers around things like reconciliation, tax reform and balancing, it seems as though we’ve forgotten for whom we make a budget. Where is the talk of people? Where are the congressional hearings on the needs of the human person? It’s as though we’re buying into what Pope Francis calls “a culture of disposal … where human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away.” We’ve enslaved ourselves to money, forgetting that “money has to serve, not rule.”
As Millennials, we cannot stand by while Congress attempts to mortgage our vision of the future by balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. We know that fiscal responsibility and social responsibility aren’t mutually exclusive.
The Gospels teach us why we must care about the budget: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Lk. 12:34). As a nation, we cannot invest solely in the rich while claiming to care about people who are poor. We cannot spout rhetoric of equality while undermining marginalized groups through our “shared” agenda. We cannot pretend that the budget does not reflect our priorities. Where our treasure is, our heart will be also. Let us, the youth together with our parents and grandparents, push for a faithful budget that, as Francis said, "build[s] a society and an economy where man and his own good, and not money, are at the center.”
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