As people of faith, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Loving our neighbor means ensuring they have access to adequate healthcare when they are sick, food when they are hungry, and the supports they need at the most vulnerable moments of their lives. The Trump administration’s proposed federal budget takes these essential supports out of reach of many. That budget calls for drastic cuts to Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), and so much more.
“Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” (Matthew 25:44)
Medicaid is facing well over $1 trillion in cuts. The proposed budget calls for a $610 billion funding decrease. Congressional Republicans want to trim another $800 billion through their efforts to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Under that proposal, states could choose between receiving a block grant or an allotment per person. What does that mean in practice? Fewer people will receive benefits and the wait lists for urgently needed coverage will grow.
Legislators claim that such changes will give states more flexibility to control costs. But states don’t set prices, health insurance companies and hospitals do. So, while these cuts might provide the appearance of “stability” to the federal budget, state budgets will be hit hard.
This concept of “flexibility” is mere justification to deflect the federal government’s responsibility to care for Americans in need. Many know that Medicaid serves the poor, but it is also a vital lifeline for many others you may not think of. Block grants or per capita caps will put children and seniors, as well as people with disabilities, at risk.
The same devastating cuts are planned for our nation's feeding programs - a proven tool for lifting people out of poverty. SNAP, our biggest and most important nutrition assistance program which serves 45 million Americans living below the poverty line — nearly half of them children — is bracing for a $190 billion cut over the next 10 years. Putting access to food at risk for the hungry isn’t Christ-like.
Proposed budget cuts also target seniors and people with disabilities. It calls for cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a program which assists very low-income aged, blind, or disabled adults. If this budget passed, the least of these have the most to lose.
And what do we get in return for turning our backs on our most vulnerable neighbors? Tax cuts for wealthy corporations.
This budget doesn’t help us live into our commitment to those in need. We must ask ourselves that seemingly age-old question: What would Jesus do?
Now is the time to act. Congress is hard at work crafting their own versions of the 2018 budget. Contact them now and tell them that we need a budget that uplifts all our neighbors.