Lent is an ideal time to examine one’s conscience. What evil have I done? What good have I failed to do? Honestly answering these two questions is essential if we wish to distance ourselves from sin and advance in the moral life.
And the same holds true for the government of the United States.
What evil has the federal government done? And what good has it failed to do? In all honesty, it would take volumes to answer these questions.
But a look at the proposed federal budget gives us a good place to start.
The recent budget-related deal between President Barack Obama and Congress continues the outrageously high tax cuts for the wealthy and throws crumbs to the poor.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts gave the poorest fifth of Americans an average of $45 per person, while everyone in the richest fifth got $7,820. And the richest 1 percent of Americans got a whopping $178,832!
The Catholic social-teaching principle known as the "universal destination of goods" insists on a fair sharing of the earth’s resources. However, there is nothing fair about the tremendous disparity of wealth between rich and poor.
With tea-party affiliated members of Congress leading the way, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a 2011 budget resolution that takes from the poor and gives to the military and the rich.
A recent letter to U.S. senators cosigned by numerous anti-poverty religious organizations, including the Catholic Medical Mission Board, laments the House’s drastic domestic cuts of $2.3 billion from affordable housing, $1.75 billion from job training, $1 billion from community health centers and $390 million from low-income heating assistance.
The letter continues with a sampling of the extreme harm that will be done to the poorest of the world’s poor if the U.S. Senate passes and the president signs the House’s budget resolution:
Food aid programs will be slashed by 41 percent ($687 million).
Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance funding will be cut by 67 percent ($875 million).
And global health and childhood survival programs will be reduced by 15 percent ($365 million).
The former federal War on Poverty has turned into a war on the poor.
But Catholic social teaching insists that impoverished human beings must be given preferential concern and care. Tough times call for more assistance to the poor, not less!
Budget sins are not limited to the House of Representatives. Consider President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget. It reportedly requests $553 billion for core Department of Defense spending, including $203.8 billion for weapons buying and research. Additionally, the president’s budget is requesting $117 billion for the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And don’t forget the many billions of military dollars tucked away in such places as the Departments of State and Energy.
One final outrageous budget sin: The House of Representatives cut approximately $40 million — the total budget — from the United States Institute of Peace.
The federal government’s priorities are upside down.
With the grace of God, may we embrace the Lenten challenge to turn ourselves and our government away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel, which calls us to boldly proclaim fairness over greed, compassion over indifference, generosity over selfishness, nonviolence over violence, peacemaking over war making and love over all that is evil!
Magliano is a columnist for Catholic News Service.