Catholic Bishops Send Letter Criticizing House GOP’s Cuts To Food Assistance, Other Safety Net Programs

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent letters to various Congressional committees last month criticizing the “unjustified and wrong” cuts to food stamps, health care, and other safety net programs contained in the House GOP’s budget, authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), a practicing Catholic. Today, the Bishops sent another letter to members of Congress slamming the GOP’s attempts to cut similar programs in a reconciliation package that will set spending levels for the next fiscal year.

The GOP’s reconciliation program, a result of the Budget Control Act that raised the nation’s debt ceiling last August, includes cuts to programs that help the poor, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Child Tax Credit, and the Social Services Block Grant, which provides money for various aid programs. The proposed cuts fail a “basic moral test” that all budgets should adhere to, Rev. Steven E. Blaine, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, wrote in the letter:

The proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states it is the proper role of government to “make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on” (no. 1908). Poor and vulnerable people do not have powerful lobbyists to advocate their interests, but they have the most compelling needs.

As you pursue responsible deficit reduction, the Catholic bishops join other faith leaders and people of good will urging you to protect the lives and dignity of poor and vulnerable families by putting a circle of protection around these essential programs and to refrain from cutting programs that serve them.

As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, the GOP’s cuts would affect at least 28 million people, including 2 million who would lose SNAP assistance, 750,000 who would lose health insurance, and 23 million who would lose benefits from the Social Services Block Grant. All 47 million who receive SNAP assistance would face benefit cuts.

The GOP made deeper cuts than required to programs for the poor to preserve the nation’s bloated defense budget, but their deficit reduction efforts are miniscule compared to their attempts to preserve massive tax cuts for the rich. Republicans announced last week that they wouldn’t pay for an extension of the Bush tax cuts, meaning they have chosen to sacrifice beneficial programs for the poor to cut the deficit, while upholding tax breaks for the richest Americans.