Fast, Pray, and Protect Programs for the Poor
On Monday, my friends Tony Hall, Jim Wallis, and I will begin a fast in response to the budget debate that now dominates Congress. The three of us, with many coalition partners who support the effort, plan to form a circle of protection around programs that benefit hungry and poor people here in America and around the world—programs that new budget proposals threaten to cut in the name of reducing the deficit.
Ironically, the United States spends just 14 cents for every dollar in the federal budget on domestic social safety-net programs, except for health insurance and Social Security. Beyond that, less than 1 cent for every dollar is spent on foreign assistance aimed at helping hungry and poor people. Cutting these programs would do far more harm than good.
I believe strongly in the need to balance the budget, but there has to be a better way. People at risk of hunger in the United States will feel the impact right away—in their supermarket carts—and hungry parents in developing countries will see the impact when their children ask for rice they can’t afford. Does it bother us that millions of people across the globe stand to be impacted by these cuts? It should. The debate about the federal deficit is really a debate about our national priorities. It’s time we reshape those priorities, and my colleagues and I are inviting God to help us do it.
Our plan next week is to focus attention on exactly how people in need would be affected by the proposed budget cuts. We’re going to urge members of Congress to make hungry and poor people a priority in the budget, instead of slashing the systems that support them.
I invite you to join us in this fast—but do it in a way that’s right for you. We have developed a guide that describes the spiritual basis of fasting and various ways you can participate—by skipping a meal, praying for hungry and poor people, taking only water, and/or speaking to your members of Congress.
We can’t cut the support systems in place for vulnerable people without a plan to replace them. This is our moral imperative—but also a practical one. Ending hunger sounds ambitious, but it is possible if we first change the politics of hunger. I invite you to join us in this effort and make a difference for people in need.
David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.
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