A Circle of Protection:A statement on why we need to protect programs for the poor, signed by more than 50 Christian leaders — Evangelical, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestants, African-American, and Latino:
In the face of historic deficits, the nation faces unavoidable choices about how to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices. These choices are economic, political â€” and moral.
As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom upâ€”how it treats those Jesus called “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45). They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected. We know from our experience serving hungry and homeless people that these programs meet basic human needs and protect the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable. We believe that God is calling us to pray, fast, give alms, and to speak out for justice.
As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.
The nation needs to substantially reduce future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.
Funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut. It should be made as effective as possible, but not cut.
We urge our leaders to protect and improve poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance to promote a better, safer world.
National leaders must review and consider tax revenues, military spending, and entitlements in the search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits.
A fundamental task is to create jobs and spur economic growth. Decent jobs at decent wages are the best path out of poverty, and restoring growth is a powerful way to reduce deficits.
The budget debate has a central moral dimension. Christians are asking how we protect “the least of these.” “What would Jesus cut?” “How do we share sacrifice?”
As believers, we turn to God with prayer and fasting, to ask for guidance as our nation makes decisions about our priorities as a people.
God continues to shower our nation and the world with blessings. As Christians, we are rooted in the love of God in Jesus Christ. Our task is to share these blessings with love and justice and with a special priority for those who are poor.
The News & Record and WFMY report that the owner of the University Mart in Greensboro has been charged with food stamp fraud. He’s accused of making purchases at local grocery stores with food stamps that weren’t assigned to him. The University Mart is on Warren Street, near the intersection with Spring Garden.
I have literally lost track of the number of alcoholics and addicts I know who have used their disability checks, utility checks and food stamp cards to get alcohol and drugs. I have concluded that putting any kind of benefits check or a food stamp card directly in the hands of someone with a substance abuse disorder is an exercise in stupidity.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying they shouldn’t receive the benefits. Addiction is an illness, and having an illness doesn’t disqualify a person from receiving assistance. Entitlement programs can help addicts gain the stability they need to begin or maintain the recovery process. But a disability check can also be used to buy alcohol. A food stamp card can be cashed in to buy crack. And that enables the addict and wastes taxpayer dollars.
Why doesn’t the government require that people with addiction disorders have payees for their disability checks, utility checks and food stamp cards? Good question, huh? I sure wish someone would answer it for me. I’m so tired of seeing my friends drink and smoke their checks. I hate addiction.
P.S. I don’t totally have the answer for this. Even with payees to receive the checks, pay the bills and buy the groceries, there are still ways to get alcohol and drugs. You can panhandle. A 40oz beer is a couple of bucks. You can trade anything for crack. Seriously. I recently heard about a guy trading in cans of food he got at a food pantry. Wow. If you want it bad enough, you can rob and steal. But still, having a payee for benefits would cut down on the enabling and taxpayer fraud. That would be something, right?
Update, 10/23/2010: Since I first wrote this post, I have personally witnessed payees from a government agency regularly giving money to an addict, even after being told that the money was being used to buy drugs. This included writing checks directly to the addict for large sums of money ($500 and $1000), and doing nothing to intervene or assist the addict in getting treatment. The government required a payee because of the addiction history, but the government-agency payee gave the addict large sums of money, knowing that it would be spent on drugs. This is one of the most frustrating situations I have ever encountered. And it is happening with other people I know. I have concluded that the government payees must not care very much about the addicts or about taxpayer dollars.