Congress is in the midst of wrestling with our fiscal problems. Currently, they are trying to set the budget for 2012, ensuring that it sets us on the path to fiscal health while adequately funding programs that we, as a country and as states, cannot function without.
As a person of faith, I believe that the most vital of these programs are those that provide for families and individuals struggling financially.
In this time of economic uncertainty and unemployment, opportunities such as the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) and the Women, Infants and Children Program provide support to the millions of Americans that are struggling to make ends meet.
As a United Methodist clergywoman for 17 years, I have seen families and individuals who never expected to need the help of the government rely on these programs to get through the hard times. And in the most challenging economic time we have seen since the Great Depression and questions about what our economic future holds, these programs are needed now more than ever.
And yet, as our elected leaders work to achieve fiscal health, many of these programs are being threatened with reductions in funding. Others could be eliminated altogether leaving the already vulnerable to wonder where their next meal will come from or how they will keep the heat on next winter.
At the same time, while families are being denied support, we continue to provide incentives in the form of subsidies for energy companies — including those companies that are getting rich from energy found on America’s public lands. They are not required to pay for leasing the land or to compensate U.S. families for the profits they reap from selling the oil and gas found on public lands.
Companies such as Exxon Mobil and BP are being provided with financial incentives to develop energy in the United States and yet these companies are recording record-breaking profits year after year. Various analyses indicates that from the years 2000-08, energy subsidies for fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, amounted to more than $72 billion. Yet in 2008, Exxon Mobil reported a record profit of $45.2 billion.
Is this the picture of justice that Jesus envisioned? He was greatly concerned about the plight of the poor of his day. My fear is that Congress will provide little or no money for the vulnerable among us, including children and single moms. Yet, we are seeing record profits for multinational energy corporations as a result of financial support from the United States. Our priorities are out of line.
We must end the subsidies for energy companies, particularly those that are securing energy from our public lands. These lands are owned by the people of the United States and given to us as a gift from God. We must invest this money in our communities, our families, and the health and well-being of future generations.
Let us shift our priorities to focus on the health of our people — not the health of a multinational energy corporation. This is our faithful call and our responsibility.