Raising Our Voices Louder This Fall
Listen: Interview with Ched Myers
In the last six months, Bread for the World members, staff, and people of faith have successfully prevented massive budget cuts to programs vital to hungry and poor people. "We created a circle of protection around these programs and now we must maintain these protections especially as the 112th Congress winds up its lame duck session in the fall," said Rev. David Beckmann, Bread's president.
Phone calls, personal visits, numerous Offerings of Letters, and personal emails have consistently told members of Congress that they should not balance the budget on the backs of hungry and poor people.
The Cost of Cuts
On June 12, Bread activists submitted petitions signed by more than 35,000 Bread members and friends that asked members of Congress not to cut funds for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). If the House of Representatives’ proposed FY2013 budget is approved, however, it would cut $169 billion from SNAP.
In practical terms, every faith congregation in the United States—which has more than 330,000 Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Jewish congregations—would have to raise an additional $50,000 every year for 10 years to make up for these cuts.
Recently, the Senate passed its version of the farm bill cutting $4.5 billion. The farm bill is the major source of funding for SNAP and the cut that they approved could harm 500,000 American families by reducing their benefits by about $90 a month. However, the Senate version of the farm bill contained commonsense reforms to international food aid that Bread members have long advocated.
"As Congress cuts deals and finalizes its budget decisions in the fall, we will have to raise our collective voice even louder on behalf of hungry and poor people," said Beckmann. "The decisions that Congress will have to make after the elections in November will affect anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs for years to come."
Bread staff and members have also been working to influence the Obama administration and, for the first time in history, a sitting president delivered a major speech on hunger. President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the Annual Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington, DC in which he declared that "the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition."
Aside from emphasizing the importance of nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child's life, President Obama also announced a new partnership that will involve private investments in developing agriculture in Africa. If this succeeds, it will lift about 50 million Africans out of poverty in the next 10 years. This, plus increased investments in small farmer agriculture since 2009, will hopefully continue to stem the rise of global hunger.
"Clearly, ending hunger and malnutrition has moved higher on the administration’s priority list, despite the pressures in Congress to cut the federal deficit," said Beckmann. "It also affirms Bread’s status as a key player in global hunger and poverty advocacy, being one of the few organizations the White House consulted on this issue."
Summer is already here and the 2012 elections are now beginning to overshadow much of the work being done in Congress. Bread does not endorse a particular candidate or party, but we have prepared educational materials to help highlight hunger and poverty during this election cycle (www.bread.org/elections2012).
The fall session of Congress, which starts after the Nov. 6 elections, will be especially hectic. The Senate and House will need to pass the fiscal year 2013 budget (or extend the current one); the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which are crucial for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, will expire in December; and the automatic budget cuts (known as sequestration) will begin early next year, as stipulated in the Budget Control Act of 2011. In addition, Congress will need to raise the debt ceiling at the end of 2012 or early 2013.
"We are thankful to God for our achievements in the last six months, but we must not rest on our laurels," said Beckmann. "We will remain vigilant in strengthening the circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people, especially as Congress tries to reduce our deficits."
The 112th Congress is scheduled to end its sessions on January 3, 2013, 17 days before the current presidential term ends.