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Budget critics: What would Jesus cut?

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Groups critical of the proposed cuts forecast widespread social damage. They say some 300,000 people will lose food-stamp benefits, a cut in child-care assistance will affect 300,000 children, large reductions in housing assistance will leave more people with disabilities and AIDS out in the cold, and 600,000 will be hit by cuts in a supplemental nutrition program. The list goes on.

Whenever the White House proposes budget cuts, those affected lobby hard to stop them in Congress. The nation has a long tradition of liberal religious bodies pushing for low-income housing, more funding for Head Start, and many other programs that benefit poor people.

But the new budget, by eliminating or cutting so many programs, may be expanding such concerns deeper into the religious spectrum.

The "immoral" label is one of the biggest political risks Republicans face with the budget, says Stanley Collender, a budget expert with Financial Dynamics Business Communications.

Last week, Mr. Greenstein spoke to religious groups in New York and Washington on the "moral standards" in the budget. Early in the month, CBPP and the Children's Defense Fund hosted a press conference on the same topic, featuring a few church leaders - Bishop Peter Weaver, president of the bishops' council of the United Methodist church; James Forbes, senior minister of Riverside Church (New York); and Barbara Shaw, president of overseas missionary activities of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

To Greenstein, the Bush budget is not moral because it hits the politically weak, that is, the poor and disadvantaged, and benefits the powerful, the companies, and the well-to-do who make campaign contributions.

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