Earlier this month, I was privileged to join about 250 leaders from the National Gamaliel Network in Washington, D.C., for a well-organized and powerful two-day leadership retreat. Those in attendance represented a portion of the 1 million person network aimed at stopping lawmakers from making cuts to safety-net programs which will impact the lives of low- and middle-income families in our country.
Those who carried President Obama to victory in the November election voted for a plan to put people back to work, rebuild this country and invest in our communities again. With fiscal cliff negotiations stalled, Congress now faces urgent budget decisions. These decisions can harm the economy and our families, or put people back to work and grow the economy, all of which will have a long lasting impact on our communities.
While in D.C., we had the chance to impact those decisions as we met with members of Congress and the White House. My contingent met with U.S. Congressman James Clyburn, Federal Railroad Administration Civil Rights Director Calvin Gibson and staffers from the offices of Senator Durbin, Congressman Schock and Congressman Shimkus.
We carried the message imprinted on our hearts by our faith. We believe that we have a sacred trust to act with compassion for the poor and most vulnerable among us and to promote a vision for a shared future that serves the common good and provides economic security and equality for all. For this reason, the message taken to both Congress and the White House focused on rebuilding the middle class, protecting low-income people and strengthening our economy by investing in jobs not cuts. We believe that any budget agreement adopted must include the following:
1. GROWING the ECONOMY by CREATING JOBS. Congress must prioritize job creation and economic growth. The budget must include steps to spur private investment and create target investments in infrastructure and education that will grow the economy and create quality jobs.
2. NO CUTS to MEDICARE, MEDICAID, SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS or shifting cost to beneficiaries or the states. Millions of seniors, children and people with disabilities depend on these vital programs, and they must not be cut. They are the cornerstone of our nation’s healthcare, retirement systems and a promise made to future generations.
3. NO CUTS to the SAFETY and VITAL SERVICES for LOW-INCOME PEOPLE. The fiscal cliff cannot be an excuse to slash vital safety net programs. The budget cannot be balanced on the backs of seniors, low-income families and vulnerable children.
4. STOPPING the SEQUESTER. Sequestration will harm our fragile economy; it will result in substantial loss of jobs in both the public and private sectors and will make harmful cuts in vital services needed to promote health, development plus economic security for people and communities that have already sustained deficit reduction losses.
5. REQUIRING the WEALTHIEST and CORPORATIONS to PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE, starting with ending tax cuts for the WEALTHIEST TWO PERCENT. Securing substantial new revenue from those with the greatest ability to contribute will allow us to meet deficit reduction goals, chart a more sustainable fiscal path forward, invest in the job creation measures our economy needs and protect the programs and services that families depend upon.
Rev. T. Ray McJunkins is the president of Faith Coalition for the Common Good (FCCG), an affiliate of Gamaliel, a grassroots network of non-partisan, faith-based organizations in 17 U.S. states, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The goal of the network is to organize and empower ordinary people to effectively participate in the political, environmental, social and economic decisions affecting their lives. For more information, call 544-2297 or visit www.faithcoalition-il.org.
This article originally appeared in the State Journal-Register on December 15, 2012 and is available here: http://www.sj-r.com/top-stories/x65615533/Message-taken-to-Congress-White-House-Provide-economic-security-equality-for-all?zc_p=0