Bush budget neglects #039;one nation under God#039; theme

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 16, 2005

What does it mean to be "one nation under God"? I suppose that phrase means different things to different people.

But it reminds me that throughout our history, faith communities have often held up a mirror to the actions of the nation.

In urging us to live "under God," the church and synagogue often draw attention to the ways in which the nation falls short of God's commands to love one another and care for the needy.

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From the revolution to the civil war to the civil rights movement, America has repeatedly heard a challenge from the faith community: take care of the widow and the orphan, feed the hungry, clothe the needy, and loose the bonds of injustice.

Let the oppressed go free!

Often, faith leaders remind us that the most mundane of government tasks are riddled with moral and ethical consequences.

Last week, when President Bush delivered his annual budget proposal to Congress, the Presiding Bishop of

the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Frank Griswold, pointed out that the budget is a "moral document." He went on:

"Is the budget compassionate? Jesus tells his followers to 'be compassionate, as your Heavenly Father is compassionate.'

But compassion is just an abstraction unless we make it real in our lives. A compassionate nation must use its common resources not just for matters like security and national defense, but also to respond to the Gospel command to care for the least among us.

"Does the budget serve the common good? Jesus tells us that 'from everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.' While we hear a great deal in the secular world about creating an 'ownership society,' … stewardship teaches us that the resources we possess are God's alone, merely held in trust by human hands.

In a nation of such immense prosperity, our budget must seek to use our resources not just for our own good, but broadly for the good of the entire human family."

In my judgment, the President's proposal fails Bishop Griswold's test in several areas important to Ohio.

Among other cuts, the budget rations health care to Ohio's 1,144,007 veterans by raising health care costs. It would double co-payments for drugs and imposes access fees that will cost thousands of veterans more than $2 billion over five years and drive more than 200,000 veterans out of the system entirely.

The budget slashes funding for Medicaid, which provides health care for the neediest seniors, children and people with disabilities. Ohio would lose $1.8 billion in Medicaid funding in the next decade. In 2010, the state would lose funding equal to the amount needed to insure 8,100 seniors or 78,600 children.

The budget cuts over $200 million in funding for housing, employment counseling, transitional assistance, and cuts home heating assistance funding by more than $4 million in Ohio.

In addition, the Bush budget slashes funding for the states' Clean Water revolving loan funds, which help improve wastewater treatment facilities, by over $20 million in Ohio.

As a moral document, this budget fails. As a statement about what we value as a nation, it fails. And as an act of compassion and service to the common good, it fails yet again.

As always, please let me know what you think about this and other important issues.

Write to: Congressman Ted Strickland, 336 Cannon HOB, Washington, DC 20515; or call: (202) 225-5705.

U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland is a Lucasville native serving Lawrence County and southern Ohio.