Protect the poor in budget decisions Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009 -- 1:00 AM

The economic downturn has affected many people in our state and nation. People have lost their jobs, benefits have been cut, and investment income has taken a nose dive. Gasoline and food prices continue on a roller-coaster ride, mostly rising.

Editor's View
Mary C. Uhler

Each one of us has experienced some effects from the economic crisis. Some of us are fortunate to have jobs, benefits, and some savings to cushion the blow.

But what about the people already on the margins before this crisis hit? The working poor were already barely struggling to make ends meet. Now their hours may have been cut or they’ve lost their jobs. They are now facing an even more difficult time eking out an existence.

Protect the needs of the poor

This is why leaders of four statewide religious groups have urged Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle to protect the needs of the poor as he finalizes his decisions on our state’s 2009 to 2011 state budget. The request came in a letter signed by the directors of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the Wisconsin Jewish Conference, and the Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin.

“As you reach your final decisions on the budget you will soon submit to the legislature, we urge you to make every effort to fund those programs that effectively serve our state’s most vulnerable residents,” the directors wrote.

“Any economic downturn imposes pain and suffering. Yet one constant in such difficult times is that those with the least tend to lose the most. A loss of income or savings that poses a temporary inconvenience in some families is often truly devastating to those who were just getting by in better times,” they argued. 

“Those who were in need of the community’s help prior to the current downturn need it even more now. The programs and public benefits that aided them in 2008 will be even more necessary in 2009.”

Churches facing similar concerns

In their letter, the religious leaders said they recognize the difficult choices facing the governor and noted that their own churches and synagogues face similar concerns.  “Like you, we must balance budgets. Like the state government, our faith communities face the challenge of meeting greater needs when economic problems affect revenues available to us,” they wrote. “But it is precisely at these times that we must affirm our commitment to the core principles that define who we are as a society. One of these core principles is that the poor have a special claim on the support and assistance of the community, regardless of the circumstances.” 

The four also noted that Wisconsin’s faith community would strive to do its part in helping the needy. “We remain committed to helping the vulnerable through our churches and synagogues, hospitals, schools, and charitable agencies. But we cannot by ourselves meet the need that exists. Our next state budget must allow this partnership to continue to help those who need help,” they emphasized.

How we can help

Some churches have reported lower contributions during this economic crisis. I would encourage members of our Catholic parishes to continue to give as much as they can afford, perhaps to give more if possible to offset the lower contributions of those suffering economically.

I also urge concerned citizens to keep an eye on the state budget and make sure that the governor and legislators protect the needs of the poor in the budget process.