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Reform Jewish Leader Responds to President Bush’s Budget
On February 6, President Bush released his Fiscal Year 2007 budget. In response, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement noting, "Over the last year, we saw the tragic consequences of rising inequality and government neglect. This year we must chart a new course: one that values every American, and brings equity, justice and compassion back to the center of our national life."

Pelavin: Over the last year, we saw the tragic consequences of rising inequality and government neglect. This year we must chart a new course: one that values every American, and brings equity, justice and compassion back to the center of our national life.

Washington, February 7, 2006 - On February 6, President Bush released his Fiscal Year 2007 budget. In response, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Yesterday, President Bush submitted his budget for Fiscal Year 2007, outlining his priorities for the coming year and beyond. We well understand that spending to keep America safe and secure must be the President’s first priority. But combating terrorism and paying for the war in Iraq cannot be the only priorities. We must invest in our people as well. We are deeply dismayed by the severe cuts proposed by the President to departments and programs benefiting working Americans, including education, housing, Medicare and Medicaid. Additionally, the President’s calls to make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent are a prescription for fiscal irresponsibility and increased inequality for years to come. The budget is the great moral document of our nation, and its priorities should reflect the values of a responsible and compassionate society. Unfortunately, the President’s FY 2007 budget falls shamefully short of this goal. After five years of diminishing investments in vital social programs, it seems there is almost no compassion left to accompany the budget’s rigid conservatism.

During the last month, Congress made deep cuts to programs benefiting low-income Americans, passing on $16 billion in new charges and co-payments to Medicaid recipients over five years, slashing funds for child support enforcement, and passing on thousands of dollars in student loan rate-hikes to the average university student. Now, President Bush is proposing to cut discretionary spending by an additional $15 billion over the next year. Low-income Americans covered by Medicaid face cutbacks under the President’s plan, as well as those receiving food stamps benefits. Medicare will be slashed by $36 billion over five years and federal employees’ health benefits are slated for reduction as well.

Even as the budget preaches “fiscal responsibility” the proposals to make permanent the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts belie that message. Simply extending the tax cuts would cost the government $1.67 trillion over 10 years; even when taking into account the budget’s proposed spending cuts, our deficit would still remain at near-record levels.

We are taught in the Bible to open our hands to those in need, not harden our hearts to our kinsmen. If the federal budget is to reflect these values, the U.S. Congress must craft a budget that cares for America’s children, elderly, sick and poor. Over the last year, we saw the tragic consequences of rising inequality and government neglect. This year we must chart a new course: one that values every American, and brings equity, justice and compassion back to the center of our national life.

Formal submission of the budget, of course, is the beginning, not the end, of the process. We commit ourselves to working to ensure that the final budget reflects those values that make America the envy of the world.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of theUnion for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.



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