Monday, July 11, 2011

This is a Crucial Week for Programs to Protect the Poor

This is a crucial week in Congress.  Negotiations are under way on the 2012 federal budget, and you're hearing terms like debt ceiling and deficit.  There is pressure for legislators from both sides of the aisle and the White House to reach an agreement.  At risk are many programs that serve as a lifeline for many people in our country and around the world, and we are urging our representatives and senators to do everything they can to preserve these programs.

Bread for the World has put together Hunger and the U.S. Budget,  a handy guide entitled that offers clear explanations of the issues under discussion.  Here's why it's important that we know what this debate is all about.
"Members of Congress are currently debating budget bills and deficit reduction proposals that will have major consequences for hungry and poor people. The debate can be confusing—how can we cut through the rhetoric and decide who’s right about which budget decisions?"
So what can we as citizens do about this?  Many of us have already asked our members of Congress not to sacrifice crucial nutrition and anti-poverty programs.   Some of us have mentioned this in the letters we have written to Congress in our churches as part of our Offerings of Letters.  Others have responded by sending e-mails or by signing the recent petition to Congress.

Jonathan Shuffield (Rep. Steve Pearce)
Rep. Heinrich was present briefly at our meeting

Terri Nikole Baca (Rep. Ben Ray Lujan)

We have also had direct contact with our congressional offices.  On Lobby Day (June 14), Graham Golden and I met with aides to Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and Reps. Martin Heinrich, Steve Pearce and Ben Ray Lujan in Washington.  There were also meetings with aides to Sen. Udall in Albuquerque and Las Cruces and Sen. Bingaman in Albuquerque. Thanks to Bread members Ellen Young, LaVerne Kaufman, Daniel Erdman and Graham Golden for participating in these meetings.

And those petitions that several dozen of us signed are being delivered this week to our legislators (thanks to Ellen Buelow, Alicia Sedillo and Jim Brown for taking this on).

Our petitions are accompanied by this memo:
TO:    Our Senator or Representative

FROM:    Your Constituents (enclosed) 

RE:     Things to Consider Before You Vote
As you work to balance the federal budget and reduce the deficit, I want to make  sure you know my priorities. The economic recovery is still too slow. One in six  families in the United States struggles to put food on the table. And one in five  people around the world lives on less than $1.25 a day.

I agree that we need to substantially reduce future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people. You must create a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people. As you debate how to balance our budget, I want you to keep the following questions in mind:

• Did I vote to protect vital programs needed by the most vulnerable people here and abroad in these difficult times?
• If I did not, what do I tell the men, women, and children who have been hit hardest?

Or ask yourself, “What would Jesus cut?”

I'm counting on you as my representative in Congress to do the right thing. As a voter, I care deeply about the 26,000 kids abroad who die daily because they are simply too poor to survive, and about the millions of people here at home looking for work and trying to make ends meet.

Hunger has never been a partisan issue. Now is not the time to make it one. I'm interested in protecting hungry and poor people in these difficult times.

Thank you for listening.

Please remember that there are others who doing the same thing.  Lydia Pendley from Santa Fe informed me that our friends from RESULTS brought the same message to Washington the week after our Lobby Day.  And  the New Mexico Food Stamp Working Group recently urged anti-hunger advocates in our state to call the White House with the following message (provided by the Food Research and Action Center):
Any deficit reduction plan must protect programs for low-income families and individuals – particularly key supports like SNAP/Food Stamps and Child Nutrition -- and must also include new revenues. The plan should reduce poverty and help disadvantaged people, even as it attempts to shrink the deficit.  Low-income assistance programs, like SNAP/Food Stamps and Child Nutrition, must be exempt from any caps and automatic across-the-board cuts which could be triggered when budget targets or fiscal restraint targets are missed.

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