Today was another full day at our fall board meeting for the General Board of Church and Society.
Today, we spent time visiting our representatives on Capitol Hill. My work on the board is especially on the work area of Environmental and Economic Justice. One of our major priorities has been in addressing federal budget issues, and communicating our understanding of the budget as a moral document.
We had time as a small group to meet with Neil Bradley, policy director for Majority Whip Roy Blunt. This was my first meeting of this kind, and I was a bit nervous, but once the conversation started, I remembered the beliefs that ground me and found my voice.
I found Mr. Bradley to be, frankly, patronizing, and I felt like we were getting a lot of smooth talk around real issues. At one point, Mr. Bradley informed us, when we asked him about US borrowing money to meet our spending, that many are misinformed and think that we can just print more money at the treasury. And whenever he referred to an unpopular policy, he said, "a lot of people are going to yell at us for that."
When we asked about cuts to social services, and about additional cuts proposed in light of Katrina and Rita, his first response was that they were "not really making any cuts." That's right, that is a direct quote.
He later suggested that people who pay less or no taxes to the federal government don't care about the government because they are not financially "invested" in it. He compared this to church members who give less, knowing that we were all church folk who know about "church budgets." This is the issue that caused me to pipe up - people who don't pay as much don't care as much? How can he say that?
He concluded by saying that criticizing the budget as a whole isn't something helpful to him - that instead we should look for parts of proposal that we can support, and other parts we think need "tweaking." When another board member asked if there was somewhere such information was available to us for our input, of course, Mr. Bradley had to admit that it was not easily available to us and that they plan to proceed with "budget reconciliation" as outlined.
I certainly was enlightened by my experience, and I appreciate even more the work of GBCS staff like John Hill (Director for Economic and Environmental Justice) for going up against such an audience repeatedly. The one day was enough to last me for some time.