Pro-Stimulus Groups Highlight Flaws in Approved Plan

Several Christian groups that praised Congress' passage of the massive stimulus bill also readily pointed out flaws they see in the $787 billion U.S financial recovery package.

The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) was among the Christian agencies that applauded the passage of the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" (ARRA) by Congress last Friday for providing funds for critical programs that serve those hardest hit by the recession. President Barack Obama is set to sign the bill Tuesday.

Food nutrition assistance programs, such as SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and National School Lunch Program, unemployment benefits, Medicaid aid to states, and other state programs will receive much-needed financial support through the stimulus plan, GBCS says.

Likewise, anti-hunger group Bread for the World praised the stimulus plan for helping low-income families survive the turbulent economic situation.

But unlike Bread for the World, GBCS was also quick to criticize the package for giving tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of education and housing.

"We regret the decision to include tax provisions whose benefits accrue exclusively to relatively well-off persons," GBCS general secretary Jim Winkler said in a statement.

"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," the statement on Monday continued.

The United Methodist group also was troubled about "borrowing resources" from the next generation, but said it was a "regrettable necessity" given the situation.

"We must make certain as we spend these monies that we are leaving our children not simply a legacy of debt but a legacy of life where God's creation is valued and all God's children share in its abundance," Winkler noted.

ARRA passed both houses of Congress along a starkly partisan line with not even one Republican in the House of Representatives voting for it, and with the support of only three Republicans in the Senate.

The two major political parties drastically differ on how to solve the economic crisis. Democrats support massive government programs to create jobs, while Republicans back tax cuts.

Supporters of the bill claim it will create or save 3.5 million jobs through the stimulus package that breaks down to $575 billion in spending and $212 billion in tax cuts. But critics have come down hard on the bill, saying it is just a massive government build-up and that it will fail to stimulate consumer spending.

"The tax cuts are so minimal that working taxpayers are expected to take home a measly $7.70 a week from the 'stimulus' while they pay billions more for: school construction ($9 billion), liberal reelection campaigns ($2 billion for ACORN), welfare incentives, socialized medicines ($87 billion), finger-painting ($50 million for an 'Arts Endowment'), and unknown millions for agency 'slush funds,' which would allow Obama to shuffle money between departments without any congressional oversight," conservative policy group Family Research Council charged on Friday.

Family Research Council, like other conservative leaders and groups, support tax cuts to revive the economy.