Make Poor No. 1 Priority, Say U.S. Bishops

In Letter to Lawmakers Debating Stimulus Plan

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 27, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops are asking President George Bush and Congress to make the needs of the poor their number one priority as they debate and pass an economic stimulus package.



The bishops said this in a letter addressed to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that urged bipartisan cooperation to "find effective ways to protect the poorest families and low wage workers from financial hardship during this economic downturn."

Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, chairman of the conference's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, sent the letter Wednesday.

The White House and leaders of the House of Representatives agreed Thursday on a $150 billion package that would provide rebate checks to 117 million families. The bill has yet to pass the Senate, which will debate the plan this week.

Bishop Murphy's letter promoted such initiatives as "unemployment compensation, food stamp benefits, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program as effective means to assist families and help the economy," which were all left out of the bill.

"We, as pastors and our many Catholic Church agencies working with the poor and vulnerable, know at first hand of what we speak," wrote the bishop. "We also know that, in the various proposals and positions being debated, too often the voices poor families and low paid workers are often missing.

"Allow us to remind one and all that, while their voices are not always heard, poor people have compelling needs that should have a priority claim on our consciences and on the choices and investments which you will make."

"A good society," Bishop Murphy wrote, "is measured by the extent to which those with responsibility attend to the needs of the weaker members, especially those most in need.

"Economic polices that help lower-income working families live in decency and with dignity should be a clear and common priority."