Thursday, February 07, 2008

FY2009 Federal Budget Proposal

President Bush unveiled his proposed budget, another recording setting development: the largest budget in our nation's history totals $3.1 trillion.

The plan seeks to cut spending on Medicare and Medicaid, boosts military spending and projects the deficit this year and next will hit near-record levels. Pentagon spending would rise 7.5 per cent to $515 billion, the 11th consecutive year of increases.

Programs in the departments of education, interior, transportation, justice and agriculture would be reduced. The nation's budget deficit will reach $410 billion this year, up from a $162 billion deficit in the last federal budget, even with the suggested cuts in major social and community development programs.

The $3.1-trillion budget represents a 6 per cent increase from estimated spending of $2.93 trillion for the year that ends Sept. 30, 2008. The White House maintains the budget would have a surplus of $48-billion in 2012 if adopted.

As in previous years, the Administration’s proposed budget represents significant cuts to low income housing programs. The President cites “turbulence” in the U.S. housing market as a core issue to be addressed in the FY09 federal budget; nonetheless, the proposed budget weakens programs that assist the lowest income people find and keep affordable housing.

Go figure.

One of the most effective housing resources for low-income, working families, the Housing Choice Voucher program, is under funded in the proposed budget by about $1.5 billion if the nation's goal is to fund simple renewals for the vouchers and not grow the program. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this will mean a loss of 100,000 vouchers currently in use nationwide. In addition, several other programs for low-income and disabled persons will be eliminated completely.

As he has for the past several years, President Bush again proposes to eliminate the HOPE VI program that provides for the renovation and dispersion of public housing developments like we have witnessed at Roseland Homes where we have been working since 1996. The HOPE VI program has been an effective community redevelopment catalyst for several key neighborhoods here in Dallas.

The Community Development Fund receives a $900 million cut, with the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program receiving an 18 percent, or $659 million, cut. Cities like Dallas use these funds to encourage economic and community development initiatives in low-income neighborhoods. This year Central Dallas Ministries will receive almost $1 million in CDBG funds for use in our downtown affordable housing development, citywalk @akard, and for employment training efforts.

The President's budget requests a 27% cut to Section 202 housing for the elderly, and a 32% cut to Section 811 housing for people with disabilities.




Lee said...

Thank goodness we are less than a year away from the end of the Bush Administration.

Daniel Gray said...

We're spending money in all the wrong places.

I can't wait until we get a Democrat in the White House so that we can actually have a balanced budget.

Hopefully, all these anti-government supporters will bump up their contribution to make up the difference for CDM.

Les said...

Why point fingers? What good has it done throughout the centuries. I am not pro- or against Bush however, neither will blame him for the past 200+ years that has landed us in this situation.

Ultimately, we are addressing symptoms of a much larger issue. This is a sad state of affairs, to be sure but no Dem or Rep is going to turn this locomotive around through politics. Politics is what got us here to begin with. So, to say that this is one administrations fault when ultimately we have a whole slew of Dem and Rep who have and are contributing to this symptom, seriously, that is just not clear thinking. May our hope be found in God not some administration.

Should we fight and advocate for justice in politics, yes. Will we win this battle on that grounds, absolutely not. This is why we hope in Christ. May we not cast blame but turn our swords into plowshares. May we the church act justly, embrace mercy and seek to accomplish what no politician can, to lay one's life down for our fellow humanity. May we not only fight the battle on the hill may we foremost work to feed the hungry, house the homeless and plant the seeds of a loving Savior in our own backyard. May we do so in the name of Jesus.

belinda said...

Sad indeed but you can't be surprised . . . not by anything (sadly) anymore by this administration . . .

Larry James said...

Les, thanks for your post. Of course, I appreciate your spirit and your faith.

I was simply reporting what the budget document reveals. I don't think I had an attack spirit. But lively conversation about important national issues is still okay, isn't it?

Sadly, part of your faith is misplaced. The churches of America will not house our homeless, or even provide enough fit and affordable housing to those families who need it. The church will not educate our children or train our workers. The church will not solve the issues associated with national poverty. The church will provide affordable health care options to all who need them. The church will not provide the mental health services required today. The church will not deal with all who are reentering socieity from our prisons.

If you do the numbers (seriously) on church donations and church expenditures and lay alongside those numbers the real costs of accomplishing what you suggest the church will do, you'll see the impossibility of your promise and hope.

This is where we need to use our influence in a democratic society to marshall our considerable resources for the good of everyone, including those who live under the crushing weight of poverty. (And BTW, this is really not about partisan politics--both major parties have failed and failed terribly--and thus, we as a people have failed.) There is simply no other way.

We do ourselves, our churches and our nation great disservice by continuing to speak and act as if we can or will do what we simply cannot.

Anonymous said...

belinda - if you would stop drinking the cool aid for even a minute, you would remember that the House and Senate have been controlled by democrats. If you think for one minute that a democrat president will control the spending of congress, you are not in line with reality.

Karen said...

The budget is despicable. This president should not still surprise me with how ludicrous are his actions and decisions, yet he manages to do so.

incapearl said...

I appreciate what Les said. And, I appreciate your comment to him, Larry. Though, I think the language should be "the church will not." The church can do whatever she wants to do. The question is, will she--and mostly the answer is no.

We will be fighting poverty and war and hunger and disease and broken hearts and souls for as long as this world is turning. These things are of Satan. Our job is to fight and do what we can and will.

Justin said...

Why not just abandon the church and put your hope in the state Larry? I'm not trying to be snarky here, though I understand that it might seem that way, but if you have so little faith in what the church can or will do, why even bother associating yourself with it?

And also, is the point of the church to make everyone wealthy by the standards that we've set here in America, or is it restorative and redemptive, which does come through social justice but is also more about a worldview that looks to others interests before your own, rather than one that tries to create utopia for all through the redistribution of wealth?

Anonymous said...

"...marshall our considerable resources for the good of everyone."

Well, Larry, it didn't work for the pilgrims in the 17th century and it won't work for us today. However, if Hillary becomes president, she has already promised to garnish your wages if you don't buy into her health care plan.

Larry James said...

Justin, it amazes me how you consistently miss or refuse to even hear my point. I'm not making a judgment about the church, nor am I leaving it nor recommending that anyone should. I am talking strictly about the reality of the numbers--assets, liabilities and priorities. It is a matter of scale, pure and simple. It is unfair to suggest that the church do something that would be impossible for it to do for many reasons. But I was talking about the dollars, the enormity of the issues we face.

Justin said...

And my point is exactly this... is it a Christian's first priority to try and end poverty in the world, or to continue to create people who are willing to sacrifice their own well being for the needs of others?

If anyone could have created a governing body that could have ended poverty, would it not have been Jesus? Yet, instead of taking over the government, he let the government kill him, because the point of Christianity wasn't power over structures to try and fix all of the world's problems. It was a power under structure that was supposed to change hearts through radical love. I feel like you, and the Christian right, do a disservice to the message of Christ when you try and force people to do what you think is right. I don't argue with your actual point, I think we should try and alleviate poverty wherever possible. But I don't think that doing it through the government is the way Jesus would have us. Can the church end poverty? In the long run, eventually, when the Kingdom comes in full I believe it that poverty will end, however I don't know exactly what that will look like.

I do believe its important that Jesus said "the poor will always be with you." Now, I don't believe that means we shouldn't do anything, but I often wonder what the implications of Jesus's saying that were. Maybe he meant that our ultimate goal wasn't to try and fix all the world's ills, but to reach out to those in need and preach the salvation of God, salvation from the broken systems of the world, materialism, unadulterated selfishness, dependency, chaos, etc, is over. Because of the resurrection, we have no need to fear those things, and so we live our lives in radical ways that show the effects of our belief in the resurrection on our lives.

Am I completely off base in thinking that our ultimate goal isn't to "end" poverty, but to create disciples who look to the needs of others as their own?

Larry James said...

My post had nothing to do with what the church should do. Others pooh-poohed my comments about the federal budget and poverty. On the one hand, some say "let the church do it" (which is impossible, as even you seem to admit) on the other hand, others (like you) tell me helping people out of poverty isn't to be a major or defining concern of the church. Okay. So, I just keep advocating on every front for the poor.

How can you read Luke and dismiss the call of Jesus to address the poor? I'm not being critical or judgmental. I'm genuinely curious. I think what Jesus says in Luke explains the response of the infant church in Acts 2 & 4.

BTW--look at Deuteronomy 15:1-11. This is the text Jesus quotes regarding the poor being with us always. Note, as you read, why the text arrives at that bleak conclusion. The clear expectation is that "there will be no poor among you. . .if only you are careful to obey all that I have said to you." The inevitability of poverty is only the result of the disobedience of people with resources. It could be different and was in Acts 2, 4.

Daniel Gray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin said...

I don't think that I'm arguing that we not try to help the poor, by any stretch of the imagination. My point is merely that WE help the poor, in any way WE can. But that we shouldn't include taking money away from those who have, through the government, to try and fix all of societies ills. Like I said earlier, Jesus could have taken over the government, or God could have originally instituted one, but I think He knew that using force to bring about your desired means has many unintended consequences. Hearts must be changed. That was the biggest failure of the Law. God legislated that certain things should occur to protect the weakest among us, yet people continued to find ways to weasel out of their responsibilities, as well as legitimate excuses not to do anything. Such as people not wanting to lend money right before the law would require that they forgive debt, making life worse for the poor.

The point is to change hearts, and that can't be done through force. It can be done through non violent resistance, as well as radical example. I feel like many people, who I believe have good hearts, by trying to use the power of the sword to achieve God's desires, actually turn many people against the message of helping the poor. Giving to those in need is right, but people have a problem with a majority who pay little to no taxes requiring that they, who pay most of the taxes, continue to pay more and more that is redistributed to those who don't have income, whether because of disability, lack of opportunity, or laziness. Those that pay the most into the system know intuitively that there are some who just take advantage of getting a paycheck every month. There is no redemption or reconciliation there, and those are the messages of Christ. We need to be encouraging people to view others as they view themselves, and push them to be in relationship with the poor. That will further reconciliation and redemption, where as the promoting of taking more and more money, through force of the government from people to help the poor promotes strife between the two rather than reconciliation.

Daniel Gray said...

Justin, there are plenty of political reasons to end poverty that don't have a single overtone of Christianity.

Most of what you said, about encouraging the church to get out there, is great. Go do that!

I just don't see why you have to constantly antagonize Larry because he works alongside public funding efforts.

Do you think this dialog is going to produce different results in the ministry Larry does? Because it sure seems like we're running through the same old arguments on here every day. And I think it's futile to do so, as it only stirs up hatred.

Anonymous said...

I am baffled, Justin. If the goal of Christianity is "to create people who are willing to sacrifice their own well being for the needs of others," wouldn't such people vote (even against their own economic self-interest) to help their fellow men who need their help? That is, put that faith into action?

Just as conservatives typically vote to, say, strengthen the military, etc, wouldn't committed Christians vote to "sacrifice their own well being for the needs of others"? (Your words.) SOmtimes it seems you are making Larry's argument even as you try to refute it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:19... that argument won't suffice.

Justin thinks every Christian should join the libertarian party against the government to abolish it, so Christians can avoid being part of the government. Quite a contradiction if you ask me...

Charles said...

At the risk of putting words in Justin's mouth, like most people here are doing, I think he's saying that Christians might not vote to require other people to sacrifice their own well-being for the needs of others. I disagree with him politically, but I don't think that's a bad belief. If churches aren't going to require their members to sacrifice for others, should they encourage the government to do so? And Justin's living enough of the work that I don't think he's working out of hate or fear like many posters who share his political leanings.

I don't mean to imply that Larry and others working with CDM have viewpoints that are any less valid, or that Justin's opinions should be followed, but he does tend to get lumped in with antagonists when he's just trying to have a dialogue with the rest of us.

From my perspective, our government is a social contract that is not a pick-and-choose of responsibilities and perks, but a package decided on hopefully by the whole. Despite the corruption and sometime inefficiency (Larry's pointed us to stats on how effective the government often is), there's no reason the people shouldn't be constantly analyzing and potentially changing this contract. And I personally would like to see this collective effort of ours guarantee the rights and survival of our least as voraciously as we do those of the top campaign donors/recipients. Until then it's not laissez-faire, it's not libertarian, it's not democratic or republican (although it is often Democratic and Republican), and it's certainly not Christian. Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Justin, I am certain that many who receive gov't aid (Haliburton, Bechtel, etc.) are taking advantage of us who pay our taxes. But, I also know that most of the needy, disabled, the weak and the children who receive gov't assistance, especially when it is channeled thru orgs like Larry's, are actually receiving the redemption you feel can only come thru those who insist on remaining radically in control of "their money." That may be the silliest and most unfaithful myth of all--"my money." If corruption is a given, as you contend, then most of it occurs where most of the money is flowing today--gov't contracts with military corporations, etc.

belinda said...

With the exception of two or three years, the GOP has been in control of congress since 1994, when Newt Gingrich ushered in his contract on the American middleclass.

With the exception of the 8 years Clinton was President, the Republicans have also controlled the White House since Reagan was sworn in, in January of 1981. They have been in the White House for 20 of the last 28 years! Reagan 8 years, daddy Bush 4 years, Clinton 8 and now the current one almost 8. Do the math.

Justin said...

Thanks Charles, I appreciate that at least someone understands that I'm not a neofascist brown person hater.

Anon 1:36

I am against corporate welfare, and because I am a Christian, I cannot support war. Most old school libertarian/old right paleoconservatives are against massive corporate welfare, just the same as they are against other government redistribution. The money, aka the work, of the people of any country belongs to them from a strictly secular standpoint. And I'm talking about how we as Christians relate to those who are not. We know that the fruit of our labor belongs first and foremost to God, and because of that, we share with others who are in need, regardless of if they deserve it or not. That's how I live my life. I help out people that come along, even if I know they will likely buy a drink or drugs, but I make sure that they know I care for them first and foremost, and that I view them as equal with me. You show that by looking people in the eyes, and not being afraid to touch someone who might otherwise be labeled untouchable (Jesus was all about that).

But anyway, to your point Anon 136, I don't make exceptions for any redistribution of wealth in political philosophy. Not only does it, in wartime, bring carnage, but government subsidies of business is largely responsible for the monopolies of Carnegie and Rockefeller at the turn of the twentieth century. Government intervention in the market makes the rich richer and the poor poorer, because it makes competition impossible, thereby not allocating resources most efficiently.

anon said...

blame the greedy capitalists who have infiltrated government and misused it.

charles, our problem with justin is simply that he makes these brush-stroke statements that government is purely evil without providing any factual evidence. many of us are willing to talk about the role of government, but justin is beyond that.

Justin said...

How much evidence does one need? Most of the horrific things in the history of man have been done and our caused by government. For one thing, with no government, war is much harder to wage.

Les said...

Larry, I'm sorry, i miscommunicated. I appreciated your comments and I agree with you, that the church alone cannot make the difference as it stands now. Moreover, I am a greatly appreciative of all that God has blessed you to do. In fact, if anyone has a right, per se, to speak out against social injustice I would say it is a man (you) who is doing his best to stand up against such injustices. You are living my dream.

However, I wasn't really writing you per se but more to the first two responses who see the hope in something other than this administration. They see it in democracy and politics.

Your response though brings up some concerns I have always had about how much power we believe we do or don't have. As church goers, those who participate in the institutionalized version, which at some levels is anyone claiming to be a Christian, you are right. We cannot pick up that massive weight alone.

That said, what I do believe and see occurring goes beyond this world. While our fleshly nature has made the church yet another fleshly institution at some level, those in it who are living as the submitted and incarnate body of Christ, in my opinion, serve as the ONLY hope for the world. To say that we cannot do it is to take the words of Jesus from John 14.12ff and render the power he gave us powerless. This Jesus is the only hope and the primary mode of bringing forth his kingdom is the church. In other words, we must be leading the way and I don't think it is primarily a battle to be one on capitol hill. That would be, in my opinion, a claim that somehow our fallen fleshly nature that landed us where we are can somehow fix the fleshly problems we face. As though, eating the forbidden fruit again might somehow turn back time and find us completely restored to our intended nature, walking with God in the garden.

I think that my argument is that church living incarnate as you are seeking to do, is the answer. Politics will be impacted when we lead the way in spite of our physical ability to do so. Justice will ring through when one black woman sits on a bus and decides that racist injustices are wrong. What power did she really have, physically, but her example created ripples well down the line. This is church. This is God sending his Son, to DIE, as though any one man could redeem our situation, but HE DID! So, that said, what I really meant by my comments was that we can point the finger all day long and place blame OR we can beat our swords (used on capital hill) into plowshares (that feed the world). If the church is waiting for the politicians to do the job, we are in trouble. However, if we wait eagerly in expectation for the promise that we will do even greater things than Jesus himself, then we know God's kingdom will continue to break through and reign supreme in the lives of his image bearers.

Again, forgive me if I sounded defensive. I wasn't. I was merely pushing us to a bigger vision and reality of faith. Naive is not moving forward in faith, knowing that right now we cannot manage it. Naive is thinking that someone else in the political realm is going to do the job, the church has been called to do. Faith is moving forward, knowing that we can't but God can. Someone above was dead on when they said, it is wrong for us to ask the government to sacrifice as we email a letter to our congressman from the coffee shop, sipping on $5 lattes. Nothing against lattes just our unwillingness to give it up when the guy outside is is cold and hungry. We must die to ourselves know that God HAS WON!

Les said...

Wow, that was ridiculously long.

Let me boil it down to cliff notes, lol. I pray for our leaders, I am not an American first (perhaps not even a close second or third but I thank God for the benefits he has given our country), I am a Christian first, I hate war (I support our troops but don't like that they have to die), I have faith in God and hope God will use our government to help overcome injustice. However, that is not why Jesus came, he came as THE ANSWER, and he empowered the church, to continue that work with even greater potential (John 14). He did not expect Pharisees to get it, he knew he would die. Yet, even Jesus insisted we pray and love our neighbors, leaders and enemies (not mutually exclusive, perhaps) and as I see it that where our hope must be. In the God who sent a Son and called his church to extend (live out) the good news of a battle already won. He didn't say change the face of politics he said stand out in holiness, pray in a closet, fast privately, love, love, love. Too many have forgotten the power of love. Thanks Beatles ;)

If there are other cans of worms I have opened, sorry. God bless you and your work.

Robert Guest said...

On the church vs. state poverty reduction debate-

If you could send your income taxes to church/charity instead of the federal government- would you?

Why not allow private charities to receive somee of the trillions we take from taxpayers?

Larry James said...

Les, thanks for your thoughts and your post.

Robert, good question. The answer is that is happening now. Our federal, state and local governments already contract with organizations like CDM to accomplish much of their work. In addition, the programs that they deliver pour billions back into local and state economies for various purposes of uplift and opportunity creation.

It seems to me that you've implied the main problem with taxation: we want to maintain control of "our money" and don't like the notion of turning over the decision making authority of any collective!

Lyn said...

My reaction is mild enthusiasm. The President's proposed cuts are a step in the right direction. The federal government should not be involved in helping low income people find and keep affordable housing. Housing is a precious thing. People should have to work hard and to pay a fair price for housing. The poor are not owed housing. Besides, supporting the poor is wasteful; America gets nothing from this money that could have been better spent or invested elsewhere.

The community development block grants are a waste. They give more money to communities that have already failed to thrive.

As for the public housing projects renewal money - let the states fund it. Let each state support its own poor. Don't push it off on the federal government. Taxing people at the state and local level has a quicker, more tangible effect; people feel it more. Let the people who work and pay taxes feel the burden of supporting the permanent underclass in their own communities - then you'll see less waste and more productive spending.

Larry James said...

Lyn, come down and see me sometime. The numbers of working folks in Dallas who are paying well above 30% of their income on housing (most of which is owned by landlords who don't maintain it and thus is substandard)is enormous and growing. Hard working folks are being shut out of decent housing in our city.

Your view is uninformed, short-sighted, mean-spirited and without any comprehension of urban reality. Frankly, I can't believe some of what you've written here. I pray you always have what you have now and that if you lose it, I pray that the policies you espouse are not in place. . .for your own sake. Astounding!

Justin said...


My wife and I want to buy a house... is it all right if we garnish some of your wages to pay for it, cause we can't afford it right now.

Anonymous said...

Justin you and your wife can afford housing, but if you couldn't, I'm sure the government would be glad to step in and offer assistance.

Seriously... are we supposed to buy into your flawed logic and senseless libertarian pandering?

Justin said...

If affordable housing is a right then, I don't consider what we're paying to be affordable. Our budget is pretty tight. We've been paying over 25% of our income on our apartment. Now I'm working four jobs in order to not be pinching pennies month to month. All of the jobs are part time. We found a house we want to buy, and we qualified, but we'd have to pay 35% of our income to get into it. So we're stuck here in an apartment.

I'm just wondering if "affordable" housing is a right, what is "affordable". It would be much more affordable for us if our housing was much cheaper.

Anonymous said...

30% of income... sorry, you don't meet the threshold... but you do have A living environment that is affordable... but paying up to 35% to get a house, that's a steal. I'd go for that -- think of all the stored up equity you'll have down the road.

Larry James said...

Justin, as a matter of fact, my wages are "garnished" bi-weekly and then on April 15, I'll make anohter contribution to the fund that does in fact make it possible for many Americans to benefit from improved housing. This, of course, is why I press on these issues and why I take exception when the funds are diverted from the quality of life issues in our federal spending plan. Really not much different than my offerings at church in terms of how I watch and pray and advocate.

The definition of "affordable" housing is housing that costs no more than 30% of a household's gross wages. If you can buy a house and pay 35% of your income, your home will be just above affordable by the definition, but you can likely make it given your other assets and advantages. My concern in my posts are for very poor people who pay upwards of 50% of their income for housing, most of which is sub-standard in terms of condition--owned by slum landlords who could care less about public health, education or safety.

None of this is theoretical for me, Justin. So, forgive me if I'm a bit put off by your sarcastic comments.