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					President Barack Obama
Vice President Joe Biden
Speaker of the House John Boehner
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Dear Mr. President; Mr. Vice President; Speaker Boehner; Minority Leader Pelosi; Majority
Leader Reid; Minority Leader McConnell:

We write to urge you to follow a key bedrock principle included in prior bipartisan deficit
reduction efforts and espoused by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson: protect programs for low-income families and
individuals and make sure that deficit reduction is achieved in a way that does not increase
poverty.

Any agreement on deficit reduction should neither cut low-income assistance programs directly
nor subject these programs to cuts under automatic enforcement mechanisms. Cuts to
programs that help low-income people meet their basic needs or provide them with
opportunity to obtain decent education and employment would inevitably increase poverty and
hardship.

The major bipartisan deficit reduction packages of recent decades have adhered to the
principle we espouse here. In fact, all deficit reduction packages enacted in the 1990s reduced
poverty and helped the disadvantaged even as they shrank deficits. In addition, every
automatic budget cut mechanism of the past quarter-century has exempted core low-income
assistance programs from any automatic across-the-board cuts triggered when budget targets
or fiscal restraint rules were missed or violated. The 1985 and 1987 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings
laws, the 1990 Budget Enforcement Act, the 1993 deficit reduction package, the 1997 Balanced
Budget Act, and the 2010 pay-as-you-go law all exempted core low-income programs from
automatic cuts.

The United States already has higher levels of poverty and inequality than most other Western
nations. We agree that we must address future deficits and put our nation on a sustainable
fiscal course. But that need not — and should not — entail increasing poverty and hardship or
inequality, as various past deficit reduction packages demonstrate. Indeed, the 1990, 1993, and
1997 deficit reduction packages, which improved the Earned Income Tax Credit, strengthened
the SNAP program or created the Children’s Health Insurance Program, show that reducing
poverty and expanding effective low-income assistance programs is fully consistent with deficit
reduction.

In recent weeks, an unprecedented coalition of Evangelical, Roman Catholic, mainline
Protestant, African-American, and Latino Christian leaders have joined together to advance this
principle of protecting people with low incomes in the current budget debate. They have
issued a joint statement calling on policymakers to draw a "Circle of Protection" around
programs that meet the basic needs of low-income people, both at home and abroad. We
applaud this effort and add our voices to it. We call for Congress and the White House to
commit to the principle of protecting low-income people in deficit reduction.

Sincerely,



Diana Aviv, President and CEO,                     Ambassador Tony P. Hall, Executive
Independent Sector                                 Director, Alliance to End Hunger
                                                   United States Congressman, Retired
Ian Bautista, President,
United Neighborhood Centers of America             Wade Henderson, President and CEO,
                                                   The Leadership Conference on Civil and
David Beckmann, President,                         Human Rights
Bread for the World
                                                   Alan Houseman, President and Executive
Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director,               Director, Center for Law and Social Policy
Center for Community Change
                                                   Janet Murguía, President and CEO,
Melissa Boteach, Manager,                          National Council of La Raza
Half in Ten
                                                   Christine Owens, Executive Director,
Nancy Duff Campbell, Co-President,                 National Employment Law Project
National Women's Law Center
                                                   John Podesta, President and CEO,
Sheila Crowley, President and CEO,                 Center for American Progress
National Low Income Housing Coalition
                                                   Ron Pollack, Executive Director,
Marian Wright Edelman, President,                  Families USA
Children's Defense Fund
                                                   Hilary O. Shelton, Director,
Vicki Escarra, President and CEO,                  NAACP Washington Bureau & Senior Vice
Feeding America                                    President for Advocacy and Policy

Brian Gallagher, President and CEO,                Jim Wallis, President and CEO,
United Way Worldwide                               Sojourners

Peter Goldberg, CEO,                               James Weill, President,
Alliance for Children and Families                 Food Research and Action Center

Robert Greenstein, President,                      Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director,
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities             Coalition on Human Needs

                                                   Rev. Heyward Wiggins, Co-Chair PICO
                                                   National Network Steering Committee

				
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