“The pursuit of economic justice takes believers into the public arena, testing the policies of government by the principles of our teaching. …We are called to shape a constituency of conscience, measuring every policy by how it touches the least, the lost, and the left-out among us.” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, 1986)
President Trump’s “Budget Blueprint” is such a moral travesty that I’ve started to think that maybe — just maybe — it’s some kind of weird reverse-psychology strategy to get otherwise-complacent Americans up from their couches and running into the streets while screaming, “NOOOoooooooooo!!” How else to explain a proposal that calls for cuts in Meals on Wheels for needy senior citizens, after school programs for impoverished children, work-study and Pell grants for low income college students, support for housing for people in need, and so many other programs that support “the least, the lost, the left out among us.” Let’s not even get into the elimination of medical research, legal services, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that funds PBS, the National Endowments for Arts and Humanities, the severe cuts to environmental protection programs including Chesapeake Bay cleanup. At the same time, defense spending is skyrocketing and the border wall looms large. At every turn of the page, the proposed budget reveals a depth of inhumanity that is simply shocking. When Mr. Rogers and Julie Andrews are speaking out against the budget, you KNOW it’s a betrayal of common sense and fundamental human values.
While many commentators assert that the budget is “dead on arrival” at Congress, whether the more egregious ideas in this budget get enacted or not, the very fact of its presentation reveals the moral abyss that runs through the Trump Administration. Watching OMB Director Mike Mulvaney defend the budget cuts was like some kind of medieval tyrant’s tale. Meals on Wheels has to go, he claims, because “….it’s not showing any results.” He said the same thing about after-school programs that feed hungry children as a means to improve their academic performance: “there’s no demonstrable evidence that they’re actually doing that.”
So, alleviating hunger in and of itself is not a worthwhile investment for the richest nation in the history of civilization according to the Trump Administration. Got it.
We, the people, WE fund the national budget with our tax dollars. We have a right to expect that the national budget will reflect not only today’s spending priorities but, perhaps even more important, the moral values we must share as an enlightened and just society. Meghan Clark, a moral theologian at St. John’s University in New York, has written an excellent essay on how “Trump’s Budget Violates 5 Key Justice Principles of Catholic Social Teaching.”
Defenders of Trump’s proposals say he’s just following through on campaign promises. That argument belies the truth: that his promises were, from the start, devoid of any moral content other than pandering for votes, and not flowing from a principled and careful assessment of how to govern this nation ethically and effectively. “Following-through” on an evil campaign promise that harms many people gratuitously does not make it less evil. And if they insist on counting votes anyway, President Trump and his advisors would do well to remember that the majority of voters went the other way, and he is responsible for the ethical and enlightened governance of ALL the people, not just his base.
By the way, this is, profoundly, an issue for pro-life Catholics. Where is their voice on the moral vacuum so evident in this budget proposal? The budget priorities are all about human life and dignity. the Catholic voice should be loud and insistent on taking the option for the poor, standing in solidarity with those in need, protecting the environment and other principles of social justice.
Congress, heaven help us, must now show some moral backbone in rejecting the most egregiously amoral components of this budget proposal. Taking good care of “the least, the lost, and the left out among us” should be the moral foundation for all budget decisions. Particularly in this time of relative peace — absent the president’s deliberate provocation of some potential enemies and alienation of many allies — there is no need for a major military build-up that would divert funds from the kind of ethical and socially constructive programs that are now on the chopping block. There certainly is no need for a border wall costing billions at the expense of meals for poor kids after school and seniors unable to get out to the store. A great nation can and should make good, moral choices about putting people first, taking care of their needs, ensuring a healthy environment, and supporting the great activities of research, education and the arts as the true manifestation of America’s greatness.
More to come on this topic. I welcome your comments in the box below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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