An Open Letter to the Speaker on the Social Safety Net

Dear Speaker Ryan,

We write to you on behalf of Evangelical and Pentecostal society partners. We regularly pray for you and your staff for wisdom and encouragement.

Today we write based on our ongoing concerns about the social safety net.

As you are undoubtedly aware, national deficits are unsustainable for the good of societies. When deficits exceed national revenues, the people who are hurt the most, as we’ve seen across countless Western societies, are the poor. Economic austerity is a policy reality that needs to be avoided in the United States in the coming years and increasing the debt and failing to address the basic mismatch between spending and revenue, only makes this outcome more likely at some point in the future.

The Tax Bill before the Congress will exacerbate the deficit, making our country particularly unprepared for a future economic downturn. In fact our existing debt owes a substantial amount of its growth from the last round of tax cuts mixed with an economic downturn.

At KMS, we are particularly concerned about how this additional debt will be paid for. On numerous occasions, most recently December 6, 2017 during a radio interview on 630 K-How, you as Speaker have pointed to the need for entitlement reform as a main means of tackling the national debt.

While we agree that any system might benefit from reform, our experience in 2017 has shown us that reform in Congress has meant almost any haphazard plan that reduces expenditures counts as reform.

Indeed this is the pattern we’ve seen throughout 2017 in the Healthcare fights which featured prominent plans to radically cut Medicaid. KMS has yet to see a reform that would empower the poor and lead to cost savings while enabling more people to flourish.

Instead we’ve seen proposals before both chambers of Congress that jettison the Medicaid Expansion, a key tool for providing stability and a social protection floor for the working poor, while making the funding formulas for Medicaid radically unfair and uneven.

There seems to be very little understanding in Congress on how such cuts would play out in the lives of the poor.

Stability Through the Social Safety Net

The social safety net, what we term the social protection floor, is a necessary tool to provide basic provision to citizens in need. The poor aren’t fundamentally abusers of the system, criminals, or the lawless. Instead they are hard working but struggling Americans that for reasons of health, family circumstance, job loss, or life circumstance have fallen on hard times.

These challenges produce a lot of anxiety and shame for the poor and its irresponsible for members of Congress to feed into stereotypes and misconceptions of our fellow citizens through their public speech. Indeed, only through encouragement, creating a culture of stability, and unleashing tools of empowerment will peoples lives stabilize and make a turn for the better.

Indeed, steps should be taken to ensure that the social protection floor is adequately available to those who need it the most providing a measure of stability and ease of access so that those who are able can get back to some measure of family and individual flourishing.

In fact we propose that the social safety net be strengthened in two key areas:

  • Expanded Flexibility for Mental Illness: Medicaid and Medicaid Expansion should look to states, which are allowing at home care for mental illness and long-term impairment. The cost of at home care and prevention is substantially less than institutionalization.
  • Expanded Stability for the Medically Fragile and Complex: States should be given additional funding for the Medically Fragile and Complex and steps should be taken to allow working families tools to receive the treatment they need in the home. This again is substantially less expensive than institutionalization and would provide a measure of benefit to families with complex medical needs.

As people feel empowered to live life well they begin to once again dream of a better life for themselves and their children.

This is the sort of American ideal that needs to be preserved and stewarded.

The poor need to be treated with dignity and as the Speaker of the House it is your job to steward your moral language. We would ask you to help set the tone for the rest of the country in your words and in your actions.

Sincerely,

Alexei Laushkin
Executive Director
Kingdom Mission Society

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