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WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 27, 2009 – In response to the release of President Obama’s FY 2010 budget, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
In these trying economic times, the challenge of crafting a budget that addresses both new needs and long neglected programs is significant. There is much to admire in President Obama’s proposal. It is ambitious, forward-looking, and makes much-needed investments in human needs. At the same it falls short in a few critical areas and raises important questions which will require significant further consideration.
As our nation battles a recession, we must work to help those most in need of assistance as they seek to lift themselves up. The proposed budget rightly supports investments in our most vulnerable populations, including the weatherization of low-income homes, an expansion in the Child Tax Credit, funding for Child Nutrition programs, and funding for the National Housing Trust Fund. These investments are the best way to bring about an America where homelessness and hunger are no longer obstacles that threaten livelihoods, communities, education, and health. The proposed investments in Child Nutrition programs, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and the Housing Trust Fund, however, do not adequately reflect increasing need. We cannot expect America to rebuild successfully if we allow our youth to go hungry and low income families to endlessly struggle against the dearth of affordable housing. We call for increased investments in these programs.
Critically, the budget reflects the President’s commitment to reforming our broken health care system. The Reform Movement has long been committed to achieving universal health insurance for our nation. The creation of $630 billion fund over 10 years designated to enable an overhaul of health care coverage sets the stage for a serious effort to address the crisis of the 46 million uninsured Americans. As more employers cut benefits and unemployment levels rise, this crisis will only worsen. More than ever, providing affordable and quality health care to all Americans must be a national priority. At the same time, we are aware that much of this funding is designated to come from changes to the tax code that may impact donations to charitable institutions. We are deeply mindful of the role of non profits in assisting those in need and we look forward to a serious discussion about this proposal.
We commend the President for reflecting in the budget his call to confront global climate change, build a green economy, and rededicate the Environmental Protection Agency to its mission of protecting our precious natural resources. The budget builds on the $38.7 billion in funding for renewable energy development and modernization of our electricity grid included in the recent recovery package. Specifically, the budget dedicates $150 billion over ten years, beginning in 2012, toward developing clean, renewable technology. In this way, the budget reflects a commitment to the teachings of Deuteronomy (20) that implore us not to destroy that from which humanity may benefit. The budget also protects the most vulnerable during the transition to a low-carbon economy by funding green jobs training programs and returning the majority of climate revenue to working individuals and families.
The budget also makes a wise, and responsible, investment in those who have served our country as members of our military. Even as our nation prepares to draw down our military presence in Iraq, we are scaling up our presence in Afghanistan. The budget’s increased funding for veterans affairs is an essential step toward meeting the growing needs of veterans and their families.
We are also pleased by what the budget does not include, namely, funding for new nuclear weapons. The threat posed by the continued proliferation of nuclear weaponry and the potential for such weapons to fall into the hands of those who wish us ill has never been greater. We welcome the budget’s investment in measures to prevent nuclear terrorism.
While the budget does not include specifics on foreign aid beyond a stated intent to double funding over an unspecified period of time, we strongly urge the Administration to abide by the 2007 memorandum of understanding that establishes the parameters of essential U.S. aid to Israel over a 10 year period.
We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress over the coming months to ensure that appropriate funding is provided in each of the aforementioned areas to ensure that our nation and its people remain safe, secure, healthy and strong.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union 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 1,800 Reform rabbis.