Have you ever thought about a budget as a moral document? According to the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary, the adjective ‘moral’ means conforming to a standard of right behavior or sanctioned by ethical judgement. So a moral document would be one based on the highest ethical behavior. And a moral budget would be built on a high moral standard. It would an ethical document. As Christians, this morality is based on the teachings of Jesus and we know that Jesus had a preferential option for the poor.
You can learn a lot about the priorities of a person, family, city, state, and/or nation by its budget. What is included in the budget and what is left out. For instance, a family that includes money for a luxury vacation but not enough to pay school tuition, puts pleasure before responsibility. A company that puts more money in stock dividends and not enough in its pension plan is not concerned about its employees. A state that budgets enough money for early childhood education recognizes the importance of a child getting started right and that this contributes to a better future for all. A nation that increases its military budget but cuts funding for housing, food, medical care, and education makes power more important than compassion.
Granted, it is often more complicated than I’ve stated above but still it gives us a good indication about priorities. As Christians, we would expect that a budget for a state or nation would address the needs of the most marginalized. This is not a racial issue – in 2017, there were at least 34,596,000 families in the U.S. with two adults and one child who earned lass that $19,730. 42% of them were white, 23% black and 26% Hispanic. It’s not limited to urban areas. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly a quarter of children growing up in rural America were poor in 2016 compared to slightly more than 20 % of children in urban areas. It’s a human issue. It impacts all of us.
So when the proposed budget for the Federal government slashes Health and Human Services funding by $17.9 B including reductions in maternal and child health and from primary health care programs like free clinics, cuts $214 B out of food assistance over ten years, eliminates $72 B from disability supports and services including those for veterans, we can see a real contempt for the poor. When we see a $34 B increase for military and $8.6 B for a wall along the southern border, we see an ‘us versus them’ mentality. I see an immoral document. The U.S. is a wealthy country – a great country. But we are only as great as how we treat those who most struggle to survive.
Fact Sheets: President Trump’s FY 2019 Budget Harms Nearly Every Community Across the Country