Trump’s budget proposal rejected by U.S. church leaders

James Knable helps to unpack copies of the President's FY19 Budget after it arrived at the House Budget Committee office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)James Knable helps to unpack copies of the President's FY19 Budget after it arrived at the House Budget Committee office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Trump’s federal blueprint for fiscal year 2019 did not receive good reviews from church leaders after its release on Feb. 12. The U.S. bishops issued a response the following morning, expressing deep concerns about many of the priorities suggested by the administration’s funding choices. They urged Congress to evaluate the president’s budget “in light of its impacts on those most in need.”

The bishops urged national legislators to ensure that the budget that eventually emerges “honors our obligations to build toward the common good.”


Speaking on behalf of the conference, the Most Rev. Timothy P. Broglio, archbishop for the Military Services, USA, and chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, and the Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, bishop of Venice, Fla., and chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said that the president’s plan “again calls for deep cuts to vital parts of government, including underfunding programs that serve the poor, diplomacy and environmental stewardship.”

At the same time, the budget proposal calls for increases in immigration enforcement and further hikes in military spending, including on nuclear weapons. The bishops said: “Budget decisions ought to be guided by moral criteria that safeguard human life and dignity, give central importance to ‘the least of these,’ and promote the well-being of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity. Our nation must never seek to balance the budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad.”

To the consternation of humanitarian, health and civic activists, the budget proposal includes deep cuts or restructuring of international aid and social service programs.

The U.S. bishops did endorse proposals that prohibit “certain abortion providers” from receiving federal funds and commended the allocation of increased resources to combat the nationwide opioid addiction and overdose crisis.

The president’s February fiscal request is the first step in the annual budget-setting process. House and Senate budget committees will be detailing their own versions of the approximately $4.4 trillion budget by May. The fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

The Trump administration budget request includes $716 billion for defense spending; $45 billion more for infrastructure; $18 billion for border security, including $1.6 billion for the president’s long-promised border wall; and $13 billion in new spending to respond to the opioid epidemic.

To the consternation of humanitarian, health and civic activists, the budget proposal includes deep cuts or restructuring of international aid and social service programs. It proposes major changes to the popular Medicare prescription drug program and includes cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency; housing, heating and income assistance programs; and Medicaid.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would be reduced by more than $213 billion over the next 10 years—nearly 30 percent. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the president’s plan for S.N.A.P., which supports more than 43.6 million Americans, “calls for radically restructuring the delivery of benefits, which would cut benefits for the overwhelming majority of households, and other benefit and eligibility changes that would leave at least 4 million people losing S.N.A.P. benefits altogether.”

The president’s annual budget request is a more or less symbolic outline of possible spending and rarely reflects actual fiscal disbursements. This year that will be especially true, Washington observers point out, because of a recent congressional deal on spending for the next two years that includes substantial increases for defense and social services.

Those hikes, coupled with significant tax cuts recently approved by Congress, mean the proposed 2019 budget includes a $984 billion deficit and comparable shortfalls extending across the next decade. The Obama administration inherited a $1.4 trillion deficit as the economy lurched during the Great Recession, but President Obama had reduced the recurring deficit to $438 billion by the time he left office. The current national debt is more than $20.6 trillion.

Officials at Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. church’s humanitarian relief and development agency, were alarmed by the president’s proposals for reductions at the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The administration’s request proposes a more than one-third reduction in funding for those diplomatic and foreign aid efforts and completely eliminates international food assistance.

“The United States is a generous nation that has led the global community in responding to catastrophe and providing opportunity to the poor and the marginalized,” Bill O’Keefe, C.R.S. vice president for government relations and advocacy, said in a statement. “But even beyond the fundamental humanitarian and moral imperative to fund foreign aid, poverty-reducing international assistance is in the best interest of our country,” he said. “Deep and disproportionate cuts to development aid and diplomacy will only exacerbate the problems we face today and leave a vacuum for new crises to fester tomorrow.”

According to a C.R.S. statement, the budget proposal significantly underfunds the nation’s humanitarian response capacity, which would have “life or death consequences for millions of people” if approved by Congress. In fiscal year 2017, the United States spent over $2.5 billion more on humanitarian response than what is currently allocated for 2019, according to C.R.S., “at a time when the UN predicts a 5 percent increase in humanitarian need.”

The agency reports that globally, more than 136 million people need humanitarian assistance, including 700,000 people who have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since August of 2017.

“Humanitarian assistance provides life-saving aid; we cannot cut now, when 30 million people face famine,” said Mr. O’Keefe.

Leaders at Jesuit Refugee Service were troubled that the budget request includes a 30 percent cut to humanitarian aid. They say that would have a significant impact on the more than 65.6 million refugees and other forcibly displaced persons around the world. They worried that the blueprint indicates the president’s desire for deeper reductions in the number of refugees resettled in the United States.

“We are deeply troubled that the Trump Administration continues to assert a lack of leadership and compassion for our sisters and brothers around the world,” Giulia McPherson, JRS/USA interim executive director, said in a statement. “We see the effects of war, persecution and trauma on individuals and families as well as the hope, security, and stability that programs like those funded by the U.S. government bring as refugees recover and rebuild their lives.”

The world is grappling with a historic level of displaced people driven from their homes by conflict, crime, ethnic cleansing and poverty in Asia, Latin America and Africa. “Now, more than ever, the U.S. must demonstrate leadership by helping to provide food, shelter, and education to those who need it most,” J.R.S. officials said.

Instead, the proposed budget slashes already underfunded programs that assist refugees at home and abroad, “some of which have a particular impact on displaced children.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
1 year 1 month ago

The ubiquitous "Church leaders/Bishops" disapprove article.

Would the Church leaders be satisfied with anything? Obviously America, the magazine, is not happy since they report all the so-called cuts and constantly use this rhetorical technique. Their choice of headlines and quotes mean it is actually the editors that are speaking and not the Church.

It would be nice if the editors and Church leaders did two things,

First specify actual numbers and

Second, have a way of paying for all they want. Are these the same editors/Church leaders who complained about expanding deficits for the tax cuts?

It is irresponsible if they don't.

Personally, this budget is flirting with serious problems as there is no attempt to control spending which could lead to rapid inflation. Obama suppressed growth which kept wages down but now what appears to be a positive as the economy expands too quickly may have a dark side. Hopefully not. I would call it Trump's budget and that is true but the Democrats want to spend even more.

One way to offset the wage spiral is with increased immigration. I would have thought Catholic leaders would be all over that. But that gives credit to Trump. Somethings trump good sense.

Ellen B
1 year 1 month ago

As long as Ryan got that $500K from the Kochs for helping push through "tax reform" that's all that matters.

Chuck Kotlarz
1 year 1 month ago

$500K from the Kochs to Paul Ryan exemplifies government of the money, for the money, by the money. The aristocracy might say a top 90% federal income tax rate would lead to big government. Perhaps. A top 90% federal income tax rate would most likely restore government of the people, for the people, by the people.

J Cosgrove
1 year 1 month ago

You actually favor an Elite, just your favorite one and not some mythical one that really doesn't exist. There will always be a ruler and a ruling class.

Under your proposals we can then all be like the people of North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela and forage the fields and forrests for something to feed our children while the Elite you favor gets fat. Your ideas are the most anti middle class idea out there because it would eliminate the middle class.

After your proposals get enacted what would be left is poor peasants and a ruling elite made up from the current aristocracy who vote for Democrats. Then a few peasants can leave the country once every 40 years to a nearby Olympics to be cheerleaders while a Dragon Lady ruler looks on.

But it won't happen since most of the money is with the Elite who are Democrats. There are too many of them to remain in the Elite once your ideas are enacted. Democrats may be heartless but they are not dumb to voluntarily have their money taken away.

I suggest you study human nature or the natural law or how God made us. Economics is based on the natural law. God made us unequal on purpose so we could rise up otherwise we would all live in a squalid existence forever. He made us strivers. He wanted us to be free and not automatons of the elite who you favor.

Chuck Kotlarz
1 year 1 month ago

Mr. Cosgrove, America’s greatest generation thrived from 1944 through 1963 with a top federal income tax rate higher than 90%. They put a man on the moon in 1969. After that, the aristocracy grew and extended its control through 10,000 corporate lobbyists, whose major achievement, aside from tax cuts, put Trump on a golf course.

A 90% top federal income tax rate would remove the aristocracy barrier preventing Millennials and generation Z from going where no generation has gone before.

J Cosgrove
1 year 1 month ago

You are specifying a time when the rest of the world was just recovering from WWII and the United States had no competition in the world.

You are also specifying a time when most jobs were in manufacturing and still on farms. Mining was still a major employer.

When what was good for General Motors was good for America. When there was no threat from immigration for your job.

The tax rates had nothing to do with it. In fact many of the onerous tax rates were repealed after WWII after Roosevelt was dead. And once more in 1960's

I think you should read more. The onerous tax rates stimulated nothing. What stimulated growth in US was a tremendous void of no competition from rest of world and the eventual chance of getting rich.

There were lots of ways people avoided the high personal income rates. One was capital gains.

Stuart Meisenzahl
1 year 1 month ago

You really should check out the list of Corporate Aristocracy donors to Clinton vs Same groups donations to Trump.
Just try the heads of major investment banks , of the major commercial banks and of the so called FANG companies. You seem to suffer from a case of delusion as to whom your Aristocracy pledged its support as measured by numbers of individuals and dollars contributed.

Chuck Kotlarz
1 year 1 month ago

Mr. Meisenzahl, the aristocracy, democrat and republican, needs to go. Whatever government the founding fathers envisioned, it was not an aristocracy.

Chuck Kotlarz
1 year 1 month ago

Mr. Cosgrove, French economist Thomas Piketty relates how the British Parliament reduced the top marginal income tax rate from 83 to 40 percent. One Conservative MP is reported to have said that “he did not have enough zeroes on his calculator” to measure the size of the tax cut that he had just helped to approve for himself.

With low tax rates, the rich have no need to shield their income. With a 90% top federal income tax rate, the top .01% incomes can either pay 90% (they won’t) or raise employee wages to avoid that.

E.Patrick Mosman
1 year 1 month ago

"The bishops urged national legislators to ensure that the budget that eventually emerges “honors our obligations to build toward the common good."

"Common Good" is a rallying cry for socialism/communism as Karl Marx wrote:
"History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy."
Marx, Reflections of a Young Man (1835)

In today's world "Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good" organization is a front for George Soros, the billionaire who supports abortion-on-demand and other public policy initiatives that are anathema to the Catholic Church.
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) was founded by Tom Periello in 2005. Its chairman is Fred Rotondaro. Both Rotondaro and Periello are senior fellows at the Centre for American Progress, founded by John Podesta.

When asked about the organization John Podesta replied: “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise Catholics United. Like most Spring movements, I think this one will have to be bottom up.”
The Catholic bishops are another front for the democratic party as Catholic Charities is almost wholly dependent on the Federal government for it financial needs.

Vincent Gaglione
1 year 1 month ago

"The bishops said: 'Budget decisions ought to be guided by moral criteria that safeguard human life and dignity, give central importance to ‘the least of these,’ and promote the well-being of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity. Our nation must never seek to balance the budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad.' ”

And, now, having made that statement, what do the bishops intend to do? I've yet to hear anything from a pulpit that indicates any urgency from my bishop on the issues. In fact he invited House Speaker Paul Ryan to be guest of honor at a major diocesan dinner and invited Ryan and the family to dinner at his rectory! Who are we kidding with these USCCB statements?

J Cosgrove
1 year 1 month ago

Maybe it is because th bishops don't see things as clearly you believe you do. So I would suggest you lay out a coherent plan for spending and payment that would accomplish your objectives.

One place to start is with how much does the poor actually cosume in this country as compared to previous times and other countries so the harshness of our policies could be illuminated for all to see.

And if someone is poor you should address why they are poor so that we can then correct the causes of their poverty. Such causes should guide spending decisions.


The latest from america

Israel’s upcoming election, which takes place on April 9, is casting uncertainty over House of Grace’s future.
Eloise BlondiauMarch 26, 2019
The freshness and wonder, the way that what was there before still exists but is now shot through with newness. The city glitters. Why not? Lent is the season of baptismal preparation as much as penance.
We have experienced God’s benevolent interventions in our own lives.
Lucetta Scaraffia, editor in chief of "Women Church World" a monthly magazine distributed alongside the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, poses in her house in Rome. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)
"We are throwing in the towel because we feel surrounded by a climate of distrust and progressive de-legitimization," founder Lucetta Scaraffia wrote in the open letter to Pope Francis.