In his State of the Union speech, President Bush told U.S. troops: “America is proud of you. And my administration, and this Congress will give you the resources you need to fight and win the war on terror.”
Several minutes later, he noted: “It’s also important to strengthen our communities by unleashing the compassion of America’s religious institutions. Religious charities of every creed are doing some of the most vital work in our country — mentoring children, feeding the hungry, taking the hand of the lonely.” But he did not follow with: “And my administration, and this Congress, will give you the resources you need to fight and win the war on poverty.”
The fact is that while religious charities are indeed playing a vital role, President Bush’s policies are throwing people into the river much faster than we can pull them out. The effects of recession, war and tax cuts mean that 35 million Americans are living below the poverty line — 3 million more than when he took office. More than 12 million people have difficulty securing enough food, and 44 million lack health insurance. “Jobs are on the rise,” he claimed. But an increase of 1,000 new jobs in December is not helping the 8.4 million people who are officially unemployed, or the 1.5 million who would like to work but have given up looking.All across this country, hungry people are going without food stamps, poor children are going without healthcare, our elderly are going without medicine and school children are going without textbooks. Paying for war by cutting spending for the poor while giving tax cuts to the rich is morally unconscionable. The administration’s priorities are a disaster for the poor and a windfall for the wealthiest. What we need is a faith-based initiative against political priorities that neglect people in poverty.