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  • Writer's pictureDavid Beckmann

The politics of poverty in the 118th Congress

House Republicans, goaded on by their most extreme members, are likely to push hard this year for deep cuts in poverty-important programs. There's a frightfully good chance that they will disrupt basic functions of government to get their way - risking the United States' credit rating or shutting the government down again. Both these disruptions would do harm to the economy, hurting all of us and especially low-income people.

Christian leaders in the Circle of Protection sent this letter to President Biden and every member of Congress yesterday. The Circle of Protection includes church bodies and ministries from all the families of U.S. Christianity - theologically, politically, and racially diverse. I'm honored to serve as Coordinator. Our letter again urges continued funding for poverty-important programs. We favor reforms to enhance program effectiveness, but don't think our nation is spending to much to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people.

As measures to reduce deficit spending are considered, we support tax increases for high-income individuals and corporations. We would rather see Congress cut military spending than social safety-net programs. As our letter explains, this sense of priorities is rooted in the Bible.

The big-money decisions that Congress needs to make may well be debated and delayed until July or August. But as members of Congress are staking out their positions, they should be hearing from people back home about the importance of protecting anti-poverty programs.

Democratic members of Congress need encouragement to resist cuts in poverty-focused programs. Their opposition can't be taken for granted. I was struck that President Biden mentioned the word "poverty" only once in his State of the Union address this year. Nor can we give up on Republicans. A few Republicans are talking about a bipartisan budget and other bipartisan legislation, and constituents need to nudge more Republicans in this direction.

Members of Congress will be in their states and districts in April. Now would be a good time to organize a group of like-minded people and set up an April in-person meeting with one of the people who represent you in Washington.


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