MORAL ASPECTS OF THE 2005 STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
& 2006 FEDERAL BUDGET
Several religious groups reacted to President Bush's 2005 State of the
Union address on FEB-02, and the 2006 U.S. federal budget issued on FEB-07.
They viewed them as moral documents, and came to opposing conclusions.
Most of the reaction came from mainline and liberal religious groups. We
could locate only two responses from conservative religious organizations. If
point us to more of the latter, we would be deeply appreciative.
Center for American Progress:
This is a group of individuals, pastors, representatives of religiously
mainline and liberal groups, and other "leaders of this nation's religious
communities." Prior to the release of the 2006 federal budget, they sent an
open letter to all members of Congress, outlining criteria by which they felt
the fairness and justice of budget should be judged. They outlined six
- Does the budget provide those in need with the assistance necessary to
build self-reliant, purposeful lives?
- Does the budget provide adequately for all of God's children, including
the poor and sick, the old and very young?
- Does the budget strengthen the foundations of our country in order to
make us safer and more secure?
- Does the budget protect God's creation, the environment?
- Does the budget spread its burdens and rewards fairly, or are some
groups given special unearned privilege, while others are excluded from
America's bounty and opportunity?
Does the budget promote justice and equality by providing for basic
human needs in health care, education, housing and other areas? 5
After the budget was released, they sent a second letter to members of
congress indicating their concern about the "just-released federal budget and
by the disastrous impact many of its provisions will have on the lives of
millions of man, women and children." Included among their concerns are:
||Tax cuts that will reduce revenues by $1.4 trillion over the next
||Reduction of Medicaid funding by at least 45 billion over the next ten
years will adversely affect the health protection of over 50 million
||Reduction by 1.1 billion in food-stamp aid which will eliminate nearly
300,000 people from the program.
||A five-year freeze on child-care assistance which will prevent 300,000
low income children from receiving child care by 2009.
||A cut in educational funding.
||A $12 billion shortfall in 2005 of the No Child Left Behind
||A 8.4% cut in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program which
helps the poor heat their homes.
||A $118 million cut in housing aid for the disabled.
||A $360 million cut in EPA programs which help communities build
waster-water treatment plants.
||A $1 billion cut in the Community Oriented Policing program. 1
Call to Renewal:
This is a "...a national network of churches, faith-based organizations,
and individuals working to overcome poverty in America." They describe them
selves as working "Through local and national partnerships with groups from
across the theological and political spectrum, [to] ...convene the broadest
table of Christians focused on anti-poverty efforts. Together we work to
influence local and national public policies and priorities, while growing and
developing a movement of Christians committed to overcoming poverty." 2 They believe that examining the
priorities in the budget "-- who will benefit and who will suffer in
President Bush’s budget -'' is a moral and religious concern." They conclude
that the budget's record $427 billion deficit and its proposal to "make tax
cuts benefiting the wealthiest permanent" lacks moral vision. "A budget
that scapegoats the poor and fattens the rich, that asks for sacrifice mostly
from those who can least afford it, is a moral outrage....Rather than
moving toward a “living
family income," the budget stifles opportunities for low-income families,
which are vital for national economic security. Our future is in serious
jeopardy if one in three proposed program cuts are to education initiatives
(after a highly touted “No Child Left Behind" effort), there will be less
flexibility to include working poor families with children on Medicaid, and
reductions in community and rural development, job training, food stamps, and
housing are accepted as solutions for reducing the deficit. Cutting pro-work and
pro-family supports for the less fortunate jeopardizes the common good. And this
while defense spending rises again to $419 billion (not including any additional
spending for war in Iraq)." 3
Concerned Women for America:
Dr. Janice Crouse, spokesperson for the Beverly LaHaye Institute at
Concerned Women for America said that the Bush 2006 budget is moral because
it focuses on three main factors: defense of America, reducing the deficit, and
strengthening families. She said: "This is the secret for building a strong
society. You've got to have strong families, you've got to have communities that
are concerned about the kind of opportunities that people have for getting out
of poverty—and that means strengthening families." She added that this is
more than shouting slogans: "We have to look at what's best for the nation,
what strengthens the nation internally and externally. And this is a budget that
does that." 7
Evangelicals for Social Action:
A declaration by this religiously conservative group was issued just before
the release of the 2006 budget. It does not refer to the budget specifically,
but covers two of the main areas that the budget impacts: poverty and health
care. In a letter to President Bush, ESA stated:
"Poverty in our own nation has increased in the last several years and
millions more working poor lack health insurance.
We agree with you that there is a poverty of the soul and a poverty of the
wallet and that government should not try to solve the first. We pledge to you
to strengthen the armies of compassion in order to do more through our
faith-based organizations to overcome the poverty of the soul.
But our faith-based social service agencies cannot by themselves solve the
problem of poverty of the wallet. As you have often said, government can and
should help solve this problem. Tragically, millions of Americans today work
full time and still fall below the poverty level. The moral values that shape
our lives tell us this is wrong. We believe our rich nation should agree that
everyone who works full time responsibly will be able to earn enough to rise
above the poverty level and enjoy health insurance." 6
FaithfulAmerica.org "is an online
community of people of faith who want to build a more just and compassionate
nation." It is a project of the National Council of Churches which is
composed of mainline and liberal Christian denominations.
On their home page, as it existed in 2005-MAR-03, they note that the South
Asian Tsunami killed about 162,000 people. They compare this death toll with
others around the world:
||25,000 people starve to death daily, according to Bread for the World. This is
equivalent to more than one tsunami every week.
||14,000 people are infected with HIV every day. AIDS kills at a rate of
more than 19 tsunamis each year.
||The total Sudan genocide death toll will equal from 2 to 7 tsunamis.
||18,000 Americans died in 2004 because they lacked health insurance.
||Deaths of non-combatants in Iraq are approaching the death toll from the
South Asian Tsunami.
||The rejection of the Kyoto Protocol by the U.S. may "prove the
costliest and most preventable mistake of our time." 9
National Council of Churches, USA & Interfaith Alliance:
The National Council of Churches (NCC) is an umbrella group
representing many mainline and liberal Christian churches in the U.S. The
Interfaith Alliance (TIA) represents a broad spectrum of liberal wings of
various religions. They sponsored a rally on Capitol Hill to emphasize
that the federal budget proposed by the Bush Administration does not reflect
||Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC General Secretary said: "this budget is
immoral and does not reflect the values we hold as people of faith. The
proposed budget spends about half on defense and the deficit but very little
on addressing the needs of the poor, the dispossessed, children and those
who are most in need."
||Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism
said, "We are here today to say that when we look at this budget, we see
that American politics right now are fundamentally broken - corrupted by
abuse, world indifference, and politicians who spend their days dialing for
dollars." He suggests that people of faith: "...send a message to our
President and to leaders of both parties that despite squalor for the poor
and gated communities for the rich, the great majority of Americans have not
given up on 'We, the People'."
||Arun Gandhi, grandson of the founder of the nonviolence movement,
Mohandas Gandhi, founder/president of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for
Nonviolence, and member of the Board of Directors of The Interfaith
Alliance said: "The 2006 budget is immoral because while it cuts
programs that help the poor and the needy it showers presents on the rich.
Clearly, this budget seeks to make the rich richer while reducing the poor
||Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance, led
participants in a litany that declared, "Fairness, compassion, integrity,
and justice are the moral principles that should drive the crafting of the
federal budget. As a moral document, the federal budget should not, and
cannot, be built on the backs of the poor, the elderly and future
"Several prominent faith leaders:"
"Several prominent faith leaders from [unidentified] major faith
communities" who appear to be on the liberal side of the Christian spectrum,
joined together to produce an "Alternative State of the Union" address in
response to the President Bush's State of the Union Speech on 2005-FEB-02. 1
They raised a number of points of concern:
||Freedom, democracy and compassion are imperiled in America.
||The Patriot Act threatens civil liberties and the right to privacy
||The "Fairness Doctrine, increasing control of the media by corporate
conglomerates, and the appointment of ideologically far-right judges are
undermining the most basic building blocks of a free and fair society."
||Wealth has increased 150% since 1966, but infant mortality, education
access, livable wages, child welfare and access to health care have degenerated
||The percentage of citizens imprisoned in the U.S. is one of the highest in the
||Programs to help those released from prison are woefully inadequate.
||The wealthy have benefited from tax cuts but indicators of social
well-being have not increased for most Americans.
||The U.S. needs to cooperate with the free nations of the world in
combating terrorism, rather than "launching pre-emptive wars, ignoring
international agreements against torture, and arbitrarily advocating the
overthrow of some undemocratic regimes while counting other tyrants as
||The U.S. is lagging the much of rest of the world in the preservation of
||"We grieve for our government’s loss of respect abroad. We call on
our country to rejoin the nations of the world in guarding human rights,
repudiating torture, protecting democracy, preserving our environment,
upholding the Geneva Conventions, and being an exemplar in caring for those
least able to care for themselves. A nation of freedom, democracy, and
compassion, which violates its own bedrock values cannot long endure. We
shall not rest until the soul of our country has been restored. For the sake
of ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren, we must restore our
common good, for liberty and justice for all."
"Dear Member of Congress," Center for American Progress,
"What is Call to Renewal?," Call to Renewal, at:
Jim Wallis, "Without Vision the People Perish: A Reaction to
President Bush’s 2006 Budget Proposal," 2005-FEB-07, at:
"People of Faith Declare Proposed Federal Budget 'Immoral',"
World Faith News, 2005-MAR-15, at:
"Religious Community on Morality of the Federal Budget," Center
for American Progress, 2005-FEB-03, at:
Letter to President Bush, 2005-JAN-17, at:
Keith Peters, "Liberal Clergy Attack Bush Budget," Family News in
Focus, 2005-MAR-16, at:
Rabbi Balfour Brickner, and 12 other religious leaders, "Reclaiming
the soul of our country," 2005-FEB-02, at:
Vince Isner, "Tsunamis Threaten Us All," Faithful America.com.
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2005-MAR-17
Latest update: 2005-MAR-18
Author: Arthur J Levine