GBCS Praises Quick Passage, Parts of Stimulus Package

February 19, 2009

Calls bill flawed because of tax breaks for wealthy at expense of education, housing

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) applauds the U.S. Congress for passing the $787 billion "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" (ARRA) because it will provide funding for critical programs that serve those hit hardest by the ongoing recession. The statement also praises efforts to orient the U.S. economy towards a sustainable environmental future.

The statement by GBCS General Secretary Jim Winkler points out, though, that the package is not perfect. "We regret the decision to include tax provisions whose benefits accrue exclusively to relatively well-off persons," the statement says. "While some relief for those taxpayers may have merit, it should not have been pursued at the expense of other low-income priorities and projects designed to promote the common good such as education and housing."

ARRA passed primarily along party lines on Feb. 13. The bill, according to its proponents, which include President Obama, will create or save 3.5 million jobs. It breaks down to $575 billion in spending and $212 billion in tax breaks

No Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for ARRA, which passed by 246 to 183; seven Democrats opposed the bill. That evening, the Senate passed the bill, 60 to 38, relying on three Republican votes to reach the 60 necessary to avoid a filibuster.

Republicans and most Democrats perceive the solution to the economic crisis differently. Democrats proposed a massive program of government spending to create jobs. Republicans favor more tax cuts.

GBCS saluted Congress for acting quickly on ARRA. "It is increasingly clear, though, that the cost of inaction or delayed action is a far great threat to our economy," its statement emphasizes. "Our present financial system mismanagement is forcing the U.S. government to borrow resources from our children's future."

President Obama signed the act into law in a ceremony in Denver on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

GBCS is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church, which has more than 11 million members worldwide. The board's primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education and Leadership Formation, United Nations and International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center at the United Nations in New York City.

Read Jim Winkler's statement here.