miriam berg
5th month, 2011
Published in the Berkeley Meeting Newsletter

The big numbers being bruited about in the Congressional budget battle are mind-boggling, are almost incomprehensivle even to someone who likes to do arithmetic in her head. The issue seems to be how many BILLION dollars to cut from the budget, in order to reduce the national debt by 1 or more TRILLION dollars over the next ten years. What happens after that? Anyway i read somewhere that a thousand dollar bills would make a stack about 2 inches high, but a stack of a MILLION dollar bills, which is a thousand thousand, will make a stack one hundred and sixty feet high! This means that a BILLION dollar bills, which is a thousand million, will make a stack over THIRTY miles high! and a TRILLION dollar bills, which is a million million, will make a stack -- take a deep breath -- over 30,000 miles high! which is more than the distance around the earth.

But enough of the recreational mathematics, already. The nub and the rub is that all these billions being cut are being cut, not from the defense budget, which Friends could probably support, but from social service programs for the poorest people in our nation, including food programs, health programs, employment programs, and particularly Planned Parenthood, which helps women and families keep from destitution by having more children than they can afford to take care of and keep out of poverty. But taxes are still being cut for the rich, and corporate subsidies are being maintained and extended, at the cost of increasing poverty and hunger in the richest country on earth.

So a couple of months ago i joined a fast sponsored by several organizations including Bread for the World, ONE, American Jewish World Service, Meals on Wheels, Islamic Relief, the Alliance to End Hunger, the UN World Food Program, Feeding America, Sojourners (an interfaith activist group). They have attracted 36,000 people so far around the country including members of Congress to join in this fast. They are only asking for a commitment to fast from lunch on Mondays during April, and possibly longer, if the budget debate continues, and to spend the time in trying to carry out some positive action for peace and human welfare. I feel that skipping one meal a week is not enough, and i have made a commitment to fast three days a week (not just one meal), Monday, Wednesday, and friday, and have struggled to keep it up over the first two weeks in April, as this is being written. i have sent messages to all the Bay Area Congress- persons, and to the Speaker of the House and President Obama, urging them to resist the cuts and to cut the military budget and corporate subsidies instead. i have been amazed at the invigoration i feel at doing these things while i am fasting.

i urge others in the Meeting to join in this fast, even if you only do it for Monday noon as they have suggested. You can do this by going to the Sojourners website, and filling out their signup form. They will then keep you informed as to the progress of the fast and the debates over the budget.