Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Bush's budget reflects new low in moral values

Beth Quinn
February 14, 2005

"Budgets are moral documents, revealing our true priorities."
– Jim Wallis, "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It"

We liberals have screwed up.

You know how? We've allowed the debate about moral values to be defined by the Religious Right.

By their definition, there are only two moral issues: abortion and gay marriage. All other aspects of our society – poverty, health care, war, the environment – have been left out of the discussion.

They shouldn't be. They are all moral issues, as Jim Wallis points out in his book "God's Politics," a must-read for us all. We might even discover common ground through this brilliant theologian.

If we expand the debate about morality, as Wallis suggests, we must look at how we spend money. How is our morality reflected in our spending priorities?

Examined in that light, Bush's proposed budget is one of the most immoral documents ever produced in our nation's history. It bolsters greed even as it cuts off help for the poor, the sick, the disabled, our school children, our veterans and our elderly.

Consider the following items in Bush's budget:

A cut in food stamps for the poor by $1.1 billion over the next decade, which means hunger. Allowing people to be hungry is immoral.

The elimination of school funding in areas like gifted and talented programs, vocational education, literacy and anti-drug efforts. That's bad public policy, and it makes a lie of No Child Left Behind. Immoral.

A 50 percent cut in the rental assistance program for people with disabilities. Sorry. Letting the crippled and blind go homeless is immoral.

A freeze on funds for veterans' health care despite rising costs and the newly wounded. Breaking promises to our soldiers is immoral.

A $60 billion cut in Medicaid for the poor, which means one of two things – sick people without care or higher local taxes to offset Bush's cuts. Immoral.

A reduction of $80 million in heating subsidies for the poor, which means cold people. A lot of them are elderly. That means old, cold people. Meanwhile, the oil barons are jacking up oil prices. Immoral.

There's also the extra $81 billion Bush is planning to spend this year on his war. That's not even in the budget. It's "extra."

I'm no math genius, but I do know that when I spend money that's not part of my budget, I have to put it on a credit card. That's called a debt – or maybe it's a deficit. I don't know the difference, but it all sounds like "owing money to someone else."

And if I drop dead carrying a huge debt, I'll just be passing a major IOU on to my boys. That's immoral. I want to leave them with an inheritance, not a debt.

And I want to leave them well-tended property, not a run-down mess. Bush's plan to slash funds for the Environmental Protection Agency creates garbage for our kids to clean up. Immoral.

And then there's the moral values kicker: Greed.

At the same time Bush is turning his back on the poor, he's asking Congress to make permanent his tax breaks for the rich. The old lady in the unheated apartment next door might be eating dog food and cutting her blood pressure pills in half, but by God the multimillionaires deserve a break. They've got pools to heat, vacations to take and champagne to drink.

In the Bible, caring for the poor is the most important moral (and political) issue. Individuals as well as entire cultures are judged by how well they take care of those who can't take care of themselves. By that measure, America was once a very moral society.

Not any more. The weird, uptight Religious Right has hijacked the moral values issue, narrowing the debate to gay sex and unwanted pregnancies. And their president has hijacked the treasury for a spending plan that reflects corrupt morals and incomplete values.

It's time for the rest of us to redefine the debate.


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