Religious, Charitable, Civil Rights, and Research Groups Urge White House and Congressional Leaders to Reduce the Deficit without Increasing Poverty

Categories: Press Releases

For Immediate Release
Contact: Shin Inouye, 202.869.0398, inouye@civilrights.org

Washington, D.C. –– At a critical juncture in the deficit reduction talks, the leaders of prominent national religious, civil rights, charitable, and research organizations are calling on Executive and Congressional leadership to honor the precedent set by previous deficit reduction negotiations that have reduced the deficit without cutting essential programs for the poor.

In a letter to policymakers involved in deficit reduction talks, these groups noted the precedent of bipartisan budgets that reduce both poverty and the deficit, stating:

“…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 full text of the letter and a list of signatories is below this release.

The following are statements from several of the letter’s signatories.

Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs

 

Robert Greenstein, President, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

“President Obama and Congress should enact a plan sooner rather than later to put the nation on a sustainable fiscal course, and the recent history of deficit reduction makes clear they can reduce deficits without increasing poverty and hardship — as policymakers did in 1990, 1993, and 1997.  That’s particularly important now, with inequality in the United States at its highest in over 80 years and poverty considerably higher here than in most other wealthy nations. In designing deficit reduction plans, policymakers should follow a core principle of the Bowles-Simpson Commission – to design them in ways that protect low-income people and do not increase poverty.”

 

David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World

 

Brian Gallagher, President and CEO, United Way Worldwide

 

Janet Murguía, President and CEO, National Council of La Raza

 

Hilary O. Shelton, Director, NAACP Washington Bureau & Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy

 

Rev. Heyward Wiggins, Co-Chair PICO National Network Steering Committee

 

Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children’s Defense Fund

“Children are the poorest age group in America and hunger, homelessness and poverty have risen dramatically for them in the last two years. Two-thirds of the 15.5 million poor children live in families in which at least one person is working. We must protect children, their families and other vulnerable people while finding ways to reduce the deficit that reflect moral sense, common sense and economic sense. We urge the President and Congress to reject all cuts that would increase poverty and inequality to ensure children and other vulnerable people are better off tomorrow than they are today. We all need to stand together for what’s morally right; the future and soul of our country is at stake.”  

 

James Weill, President, Food Research and Action Center

 

Alan Houseman, President and Executive Director, CLASP

 

Nancy Duff Campbell, Co-President, National Women’s Law Center

 

Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director, Center for Community Change

 

Sheila Crowley, President and CEO, National Low Income Housing Coalition

 

Ron Pollack, Executive Director, Families USA

“Responsible federal budgets protect people who can’t bear added economic burdens.We urge our nation’s leaders at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to adhere to this time-honored principle.”

 

John Podesta, President and CEO, Center for American Progress

“Long-term deficit-reduction is a critical goal, which can, indeed must, be accomplished in a way that strengthens the middle-class and ensures adequate protections for the most vulnerable..

 

Vicki Escarra, President and CEO, Feeding America

 

Ambassador Tony P. Hall, Executive Director, Alliance to End Hunger, United States Congressman, Retired

 

Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

“With millions of low-income Americans struggling to gain economic stability – including millions of women, minorities, and people with disabilities – reducing the deficit in ways that increased poverty or added to their hardships would be contrary to our national values.Our leaders would be wise to follow the precedent of previous administrations and Congresses and refuse to cut any programs that strengthen economic security for low-income families.”

Melissa Boteach, Half in Ten Campaign Manager

“How our nation approaches the necessary task of reducing its deficits will reflect our priorities as a nation. History shows that deficit-reduction need not be accomplished in ways that increase poverty, and in fact can make the necessary investments to expand opportunity for all.  Efforts to address our nation’s debt should protect the most vulnerable and safeguard programs that promote shared prosperity”

 

The full text of the letter is below.

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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,