US Catholic Faith in Real Life

USCCB report on debt deal: Bad for the poor

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

John Carr of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development has little good to say and a lot of bad news on this week's debt deal in a report released Wednesday. Given the terms of the deal, I'm not surprised that the conference would be largely negative, since the bishops have continually called for making the most vulnerable--the jobless, homeless, poor, and young--the priority. And they are most certainly not the priority on Capitol Hill.

Carr's report details a poison pill even in the "good news" that half of any automatic cuts must come from "security": "In addition, one provision of the final agreement would require that roughly $4 billion be cut from “security” spending for 2013. Less well understood is that the legislation defines “security” to include not just defense and homeland security but also the State Department and USAID budgets. Under this unique arrangement, all international humanitarian, development, health, and refugee resources are in direct competition with funds for military and homeland security. This means that the already vociferous resistance to major reductions in Pentagon spending could require even greater cuts in international assistance to the sick and hungry around the world. USCCB, CRS, and our allies will have our work cut out for us."

In other words, the "security" cuts may fall on the relatively meager international aid budget and State Department rather than the fat weapons contracts that go to Halliburton, Boeing, Northrup, and the other military-industrial behemoths that gobble up so much of our national treasure. The Pentagon already has its defenders out--new Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is already warning of catastrophe if we cut the military budget further. (The Pentagon's budget has increased by 70 percent since 2001.) Panetta suggests cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

LIke last April's $38 billion in cuts, Monday's deal shows how perverse our system has truly become: Having gone to war on the national credit card while simultaneously slashing the taxes of the very rich, we must now restore balance by further slashing what is left of non-military "discretionary spending"--funding for things like roads and bridges, education, unemployment benefits--while protecting the military machine that consumes a third of our national treasure (once you factor in debt service). Entitlements may be expensive, but I'd rather live in a country with the most comprehensive health care system in the world than the one with the comprehensive "security" apparatus.

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