In God we trust?

The Federal Budget as a statement of values

Friends Committee of National Legislation
Washington Newsletter, April 2002


The federal budget is more than a blueprint for spending. Just as an individual's spending priorities reflect that person's values, federal spending priorities are a reflection of national values.

In recent weeks, both the executive and legislative branches of the government have offered spending blueprints. On February 4, Pres. Bush delivered to Congress his budget request for fiscal year 2003 (FY03). On March 20, the House passed its FY03 budget resolution which adheres fairly closely to the President's request. The Senate Budget Committee reported its version of the budget resolution on March 22. Although analysts consider this version more prudent fiscally than the House spending plan, the full Senate has not approved the resolution. We can expect the House resolution to serve as the spending guide for the appropriations committees.

The [Bush] Administration, House, and Senate have similar visions of national priorities. Massive increases in military spending are coupled with grossly inadequate spending on most domestic and international programs that address human needs, the environment, and the common good.

All three blueprints would accentuate economic injustice. Spending to meet the needs of poor and vulnerable populations has been effectively cut in favor of huge military allocations. Moreover, the Administration and House versions would lock in last year's tax cuts that benefit, overwhelmingly, high-income persons. Even spending for some domestic programs (such as health care) has been framed in ways that will result, primarily, in benefits for wealthier persons.

Both the Administration and a majority in Congress have opted to address threats to national and international security by building a mightier military machine rather than by removing the seeds of war and violence. Despite the rhetoric, non-military aid to the poorest countries remains a minuscule portion of the federal budget.

The U.S. government leaders whose visions are represented in these budget blueprints have created an idol, the military machine. They require the people of this country to sacrifice to this idol. Not only tax dollars, but the lives and futures of the nation's young people, the health of communities and society, and the well-being of natural resources and the environment are all offered up at the altar of military might.

Prophets of every age have sounded an alarm at the sight of such idolatry. They have known that the outward piety of a people and their leaders cannot atone for acts of violence, oppression, indifference to human need, or disregard for fairness and the common good.

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