NETWORK approaches today’s House vote on the passage of a new five-year Farm Bill with mixed feelings. We commend Congress for reaching a bipartisan agreement that avoided the absolutely unconscionable cuts to nutrition assistance proposed under the House-passed Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013, which proposed nearly $40 billion in cuts over the next 10 years to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Still, as people of faith, we must speak out against the mentality that this compromise seems to embody and which frighteningly continues to appear in Congress’ legislative agenda.
At NETWORK, we realize the need for our nation to have responsible programs that work effectively and spend our tax dollars wisely. We recognize the need to rein in deficit spending and to get our national debt under control. However, we wholly denounce the idea that in order to do so, we must look to our nation’s vital safety-net programs for savings. Congress continues to approach programs that successfully lift folks out of poverty as a piggy bank for deficit reduction and for funding other programs. This attitude not only harms the most vulnerable among us, but it ignores true government waste in other arenas and the need for tax reform that generates reasonable revenue.
This year, we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s proclamation of an unconditional “War on Poverty.” While our efforts as a nation have effectively halved the rate of poverty in America, there is still much work to be done. Congress should be prioritizing programs that protect the poorest among us as well as seeking to end the structural problems that marginalize people every day, not incessantly attempting to pare back the safety net. Beyond the safety net, Congress should be actively working to create jobs, repair our crumbling infrastructure, and ensure that everyone – corporations included – contributes to our continued prosperity.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus never ceased to proclaim the message that we will be judged by how we cared for people considered the least among us. Pope Francis continues to echo Jesus’s call, and reminds us all to seek creative solutions to end the structures that cause hunger and poverty. We urge all members of Congress to heed the call of the Gospel, to protect the safety net we have, and to proactively work to end hunger.