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Budget Proposals Do Not Protect Poor People

December 2012

Bread for the World's analysis of the two recent budget proposals by President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner criticizes both for failing to include the principle that deficit reduction should not increase poverty. Of the two proposals, Bread commends the Obama deficit reduction proposal for apparently avoiding cuts to programs for hungry and poor people.

"President Obama's proposal appears to protect poor people, while Speaker Boehner's would cause a lot of hurt," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "But neither proposal explicitly commits to a circle of protection around programs focused on poor and hungry people."

Every major bipartisan deficit reduction package over the past 25 years has adhered to this principle and protected mandatory programs for poor people. This principle was also explicit in last year’s Simpson-Bowles recommendations.

"We appreciate that Speaker Boehner has taken important steps towards a bipartisan deal and are praying for the leaders of both our political parties," said Rev. Beckmann. "The Bible is clear that a primary function of government is to protect poor and vulnerable people. It is through this lens that we are viewing these two proposals."

The two proposals outline deficit reduction efforts in broad budget categories and are not entirely clear about whether cuts will hurt poor people or not.

Speaker Boehner's proposal does specifically mention cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Bread for the World analysts conclude that it would also lead to cuts in tax credits for the working poor, Medicaid, and programs that help reduce hunger and poverty in poor countries. President Obama’s proposal would raise twice as much new revenue, includes the extension of unemployment insurance, and thus enables greater protection for hungry and poor people.

You can download a copy of Bread's analysis here.

Photo: Alex Morris feeds her son, André, in their Bend, Ore., home. Alex depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. Photo by Brad Horn.

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