This fall, voters face important questions about the kind of nation we want the United States to be. One of the blessings of this year's general election is that federal budget issues are in the spotlight more than ever, creating greater opportunities for a national conversation about what it will take to end hunger and poverty.
What will we think as we reflect back after November 6? Will we feel that our discussions about candidates for president, Congress, and local offices focused on the vital issue of alleviating hunger and poverty? This election provides each of us with a calling to speak out about the importance of funding vital food assistance and poverty programs.
Funding a Circle of Protection
"Elections matter," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "Not just to the candidate we choose, but to hungry and poor people as the programs that support them are often being considered as well. We want to ensure that people of faith have the tools they need to make the biggest impact during election season."
At this moment, the economy is still sputtering, and our nation is hobbled by economic and political divisions. Powerful forces are pushing for deep cuts in everything our government does for hungry and poor people. Grounded in a biblical commitment to a governmental role in ending hunger, Bread for the World views the federal budget as a moral document prioritizing our national values.
Although many people would prefer not to discuss them, taxes are a necessary part of that equation and ensure that the government can fund its priorities. Our country's long-term budget situation is grave enough that the resources for fighting hunger and poverty will be insufficient unless decisions are made to increase tax revenues. If we do not push our elected leaders to bring in more tax revenue, our voices will call out in vain to fund vital programs vital to hungry and poor people in this country and around the world.
Jesus' dictum "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required" (Luke 12:48) affirms the fairness underlying progressive taxation. This summer, Bread for the World published a Faithful Tax Policy Action Guide to empower voters to discuss the national budget with candidates, sitting representatives, and members of their community. In that guide, we identify the following principles:
- The federal government must maintain a circle of protection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people.
- Deficit reduction is important, but must not be accomplished at the expense of people who are struggling to feed their families.
- The government should reduce deficit spending by curtailing unnecessary military spending, eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy, and reducing benefits for people who are not poor.
- Tax increases should be progressive and mitigate the concentration of wealth.
- Congress should maintain at the current levels important tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.
To help our members and supporters be more effective advocates for these principles, Bread for the World has published election resources in English and Spanish on our website. These resources include an Elections Matter Handbook for engaging with electoral candidates around hunger relief, town hall meeting tips, and an action list to help Christians channel their faith to end hunger.
Our election materials also include Bread for the World’s Voting Record for the 112th Congress, a report on how senators and representatives have voted on legislation related to our main priorities for 2011-2012. Bread for the World does not endorse candidates, but we do encourage our members to vote for candidates who they feel are concerned about the issues.
This is a crucial election for so many people. Bread advocates can help shape it by making hunger and poverty a visible issue through in-district visits, letters to the editor, town hall meetings, and candidate forums. It is our hope and prayer that during this election season we will build a growing national unity around the idea that we can and must defeat hunger in the United States and around the world.
The Bread for the World website is full of tools for voters and information about how national budget policies affect hungry and poor people. Visit www.bread.org to find out more about how you can make a difference during this election season.