We Need a Surge of Advocacy in 2012
The Bible admonishes us to “Speak out for those who cannot speak… defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9). Bread activists and partners spoke out forcefully in 2011, when members of Congress proposed drastic and devastating cuts to programs that are vital to hungry and poor people.
Although we were geared up last year to reform foreign aid—the focus of our 2011 Offering of Letters—we had to fold this annual campaign into a much larger fight. All the domestic and international programs we worked for were on the chopping block as Congress sought to reduce the federal deficit.
Success in 2011—but More Work Ahead
With the help of thousands of Bread activists, we got through 2011 without major cuts to programs focused on hungry and poor people. We are thankful indeed to all those who called, wrote, and visited their members of Congress to help protect these programs. But the fight is far from over.
“Since 2012 is an election year, Congress is even more focused on cutting federal spending, and many programs for hungry and poor people continue to be targeted,” said Bread President Rev. David Beckmann. “We’ll have to work much harder to protect the gains we have made and ensure that anti-poverty programs are not sacrificed to meet political needs.”
Continuing threats from Congress to anti-hunger and poverty programs is one reason the format of our 2012 Offering of Letters differs from previous campaigns. “Expanding the Circle of Protection,” this year’s theme, builds on the achievements of our work last year and in previous years.
The 2012 overall campaign urges members of Congress to create a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in our country and abroad. Within this broad campaign are four mini-campaigns that address specific legislative issues that will come before Congress this year: domestic nutrition, poverty-focused foreign assistance, tax policy, and food aid.
“Powerful interests are mobilizing to protect programs and tax advantages that benefit them, so we will need a surge of faith-grounded advocacy to maintain funding for poverty-focused programs—and to pass legislation to make assistance programs more efficient and effective,” said Beckmann. “A lot is at stake for hungry and poor people in 2012.”
Churches and other groups can participate in the overall campaign, any of the four mini-campaigns, or a combination of campaigns. Thousands of local congregations representing nearly 50 diverse Christian denominations have historically participated in Bread’s Offering of Letters campaigns.
“We find ourselves in a time when people at home and around the world need protection from policies that will dramatically hurt their ability to provide for their families,” said John Bryant, senior bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. “I join Bread for the World in reaching out to our elected leaders in an effort to provide a circle of protection around programs that will help these families to ultimately provide for themselves.”
You can order our Offering of Letters resources by calling 1-800-822-7323, ext. 1072, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also view and download all the campaign materials at www.bread.org/OL.
We give thanks for these achievements in 2011:
Funding for domestic safety-net programs. Congress and President Obama agreed to shield the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) from substantial cuts. Lawmakers also protected funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps).
Funding for international aid programs. Congress made no significant cuts to international aid programs that help save lives and reduce poverty. In fact, lawmakers actually increased funding for several vital programs—for example, funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria increased by more than 40 percent.
Unemployment insurance. Shortly before Christmas, Congress extended unemployment benefits for two additional months and did not raise payroll taxes. There are now four people seeking work for every open job, and unemployment insurance is keeping millions of families out of poverty.
Passing the Budget Control Act. This law mandates across-the-board spending cuts of $2 trillion over 10 years. Happily, the Budget Control Act exempts some of the main programs on which hungry and poor people depend from automatic across-the-board cuts.