White House And Congressional Leaders Urged To Reduce Deficit Without Increasing Poverty
A recent Facebook post by Half in Ten: The Campaign to Cut Poverty in Half in Ten Years alerted us to a news release put out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities announcing a collective letter written by “prominent national religious, civil rights, charitable, economic research, and low-income advocacy organizations” to insist that our policy makers reduce the deficit without increasing poverty. The letter cites the precedent of bipartisan budgets that have accomplished this goal in the past, and implores our leaders to take a similar approach during today’s difficult economic times. You can find the official news release complete with contact information and statements from all 25 signatories here. Full text of the letter and the list of signatories is copied below.
President Barack Obama Vice President Joe Biden Speaker of the House John Boehner House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Dear Mr. President; Mr. Vice President; Speaker Boehner; Minority Leader Pelosi; Majority Leader Reid; Minority Leader McConnell:
We write to urge you to follow a key bedrock principle included in prior bipartisan deficit reduction efforts and espoused by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson: protect programs for low-income families and individuals and make sure that deficit reduction is achieved in a way that does not increase poverty.
Any agreement on deficit reduction should neither cut low-income assistance programs directly nor subject these programs to cuts under automatic enforcement mechanisms. Cuts to programs that help low-income people meet their basic needs or provide them with opportunity to obtain decent education and employment would inevitably increase poverty and hardship.
The major bipartisan deficit reduction packages of recent decades have adhered to the principle we espouse here. In fact, all deficit reduction packages enacted in the 1990s reduced poverty and helped the disadvantaged even as they shrank deficits. In addition, every automatic budget cut mechanism of the past quarter-century has exempted core low-income assistance programs from any automatic across-the-board cuts triggered when budget targets or fiscal restraint rules were missed or violated. The 1985 and 1987 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings laws, the 1990 Budget Enforcement Act, the 1993 deficit reduction package, the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, and the 2010 pay-as-you-go law all exempted core low-income programs from automatic cuts.
The United States already has higher levels of poverty and inequality than most other Western nations. We agree that we must address future deficits and put our nation on a sustainable fiscal course. But that need not — and should not — entail increasing poverty and hardship or inequality, as various past deficit reduction packages demonstrate. Indeed, the 1990, 1993, and 1997 deficit reduction packages, which improved the Earned Income Tax Credit, strengthened the SNAP program or created the Children’s Health Insurance Program, show that reducing poverty and expanding effective low-income assistance programs is fully consistent with deficit reduction.
In recent weeks, an unprecedented coalition of Evangelical, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, African-American, and Latino Christian leaders have joined together to advance this principle of protecting people with low incomes in the current budget debate. They have issued a joint statement calling on policymakers to draw a “Circle of Protection” around programs that meet the basic needs of low-income people, both at home and abroad. We applaud this effort and add our voices to it. We call for Congress and the White House to commit to the principle of protecting low-income people in deficit reduction.
Sincerely,Diana Aviv, President and CEO, Independent Sector Ambassador Tony P. Hall, Executive Director, Alliance to End Hunger United States Congressman, RetiredIan Bautista, President, United Neighborhood Centers of America Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human RightsDavid Beckmann, President, Bread for the World Alan Houseman, President and Executive Director, Center for Law and Social PolicyDeepak Bhargava, Executive Director, Center for Community Change Janet Murguía, President and CEO, National Council of La RazaMelissa Boteach, Manager, Half in Ten Christine Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law ProjectNancy Duff Campbell, Co-President, National Women’s Law Center John Podesta, President and CEO, Center for American ProgressSheila Crowley, President and CEO, National Low Income Housing Coalition Ron Pollack, Executive Director, Families USAMarian Wright Edelman, President, Children’s Defense Fund Hilary O. Shelton, Director, NAACP Washington Bureau & Senior Vice President for Advocacy and PolicyVicki Escarra, President and CEO, Feeding America Bill Shore, Executive Director, Share Our StrengthBrian Gallagher, President and CEO, United Way Worldwide Jim Wallis, President and CEO, SojournersPeter Goldberg, CEO, Alliance for Children and Families James Weill, President, Food Research and Action CenterRobert Greenstein, President, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs Rev. Heyward Wiggins, Co-Chair PICO National Network Steering Committee