“Give us this day our daily bread.” Unfortunately, in today’s contentious political climate, one person’s daily bread is other people’s wasted expenditure. December 31, 2012 marked the calamitous collision, involving deadlines, money, and national priorities. The media and pols called it a fiscal cliff. The fiscal cliff crisis was created by Congress back in 2011 when deadlines and their consequences were established so that self-inflicted punishment would befall the nation if a new budget bill was not agreed upon and signed into law.
And there’s no reason to think we will not come this way again very soon. The so-called fiscal cliff appears to be just one abyss in a mountain range of precipices.
So, what happened to the “Fiscal Cliff”? There was good news and some bad.
On the bright side: Last minute negotiations over the New Year holiday resulted in legislation that prevented our nation from going over “the fiscal cliff.” Specifically, the law prevents income tax rates for most Americans from going up, and delays automatic across-the-board spending cuts to most U.S. government programs, including poverty-focused international assistance.
More good news: The law also extends the Farm Bill that had expired on September 30, 2012. It authorizes the continuation of lifesaving domestic and international food assistance until September 30, 2013, including helping chronically hungry communities to become self-sufficient through long-term development programs. The Farm Bill extension also enables our nation to respond to the food needs of people affected by natural disasters and other emergencies.
The Bad News: The law that prevented the fiscal cliff only addresses tax issues and postpones until March 2013 deep spending cuts across all government spending, also known as “sequestration.” This coincides with the March 27 expiration of the stop-gap spending bill that funds most U.S. government activities for this current fiscal year, as well as another round of negotiations regarding raising our nation’s debt ceiling.
Hope Springs Eternal: While we hope that our elected officials will find a bipartisan, comprehensive solution to future unsustainable debt and avoid sequestration, all signals indicate that we will once again need your concerted effort to protect lifesaving poverty-focused international assistance from deep cuts. In the meantime, please tell your elected officials that CUTS COST LIVES and that they must protect lifesaving poverty-focused international assistance.
For many legislators, international assistance is a vulnerable target to cut. Again, what is the “daily bread” for suffering, starving, and struggling people overseas is considered “pork” or unnecessary spending by some stewards of our national purse strings. In reality, international assistance is vital to our identity as a compassionate nation. It makes up about 1% of the United States government’s total budget. And the poverty-focused programs that are supported by CRS and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are just a fraction of the one-percent.
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