Sequestration and the Least of These

imagesI find myself waxing nostalgic for the days when I had never heard the term “sequestration.”  Now that this manufactured “crisis” has come upon us, it should be noted that cuts under sequestration will fall disproportionately upon the poor.

As managers scramble to cut their budgets, programs that provide housing vouchers for poor and disabled neighbors – many of them elderly – will suffer.  So will WIC, the program that helps low-income moms get milk and healthy food for babies, infants, toddlers and young children.

The New York Times reports: “In Washington and across the country, families and individuals generally need to have very low incomes to be eligible for federal assistance. Public housing residents in Washington have an average annual income of just $12,911. More than 40 percent are either children or the elderly, and more than a quarter live with a disability. In the (housing) voucher program, the annual income is even lower, just over $10,000 a year, and similarly large proportions of residents are elderly, disabled or young” (“Where the Cuts Will Fall,” March 4, 2013).

People can disagree about whom to blame for this meat-cleaver approach to fiscal policy.  Is it the Democrats for holding out for a “balanced approach” to reducing the federal deficit or is it the Republicans for refusing to consider any increase in revenue?  I’m tempted to say “A plague on both your houses.”  I have my own opinion about who bears the greater responsibility, but my opinion won’t keep disabled, elderly neighbors from losing their homes or put nutritious food in the stomachs of poor children.

I believe government should play a role in caring for the most vulnerable among us.  I also believe that this nation has the resources to care for what the Bible calls “the least of these.”  The question isn’t capacity; it’s priority.

The 25th chapter of Matthew makes it clear who is served by programs that assist the very poor and who it is who will suffer most from sequestration. It’s the Lord who says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matt. 25:45).

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