Saperstein: “Times of economic hardship are exactly when government programs, especially those that may face freezes in the President’s proposal, must be expanded, not diminished.”
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WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 26, 2009 – In response to President Obama’s proposed three-year spending freeze on certain domestic discretionary programs, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
At this time when more Americans than ever are reliant on government-sponsored programs to help them weather the weak economy, President Obama’s proposal to freeze spending on many discretionary domestic programs is alarming. We understand that the spending freeze will not be across the board but rather targeted at certain programs. It is imperative that the Administration keep in mind that fiscal responsibility and restraint ought not to be placed on the shoulders of those least equipped to bear the burden. Although the details remain to be seen and we look forward to learning more, the idea that federal spending on aid programs in areas including education, housing, health, environment and anti-hunger efforts will remain frozen for three years places untold numbers of American men, women and children at risk.
Times of economic hardship are exactly when government programs, especially those that may face freezes in the President’s proposal, must be expanded, not diminished. The number of people receiving federal unemployment benefits rose exponentially in 2009, to 9.1 million. In the same year, nearly one in five families reported lacking sufficient money to buy food they needed. Though these are staggering numbers, they remind us of the crucial role played by government programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), which were utilized by a record one in eight Americans last year, and the National School Lunch program, which provided free or reduced-price meals to over 31 million children. Even still, we know there are millions who qualify for benefits but do not receive them. Freezing funding for programs in education, nutrition, housing, health and other areas would leave essential safety nets without the financial resources to bring help to all those who need it.
Time and again we have learned that by investing in our most vulnerable communities we can create jobs, revitalize blighted neighborhoods, provide basic needs to struggling families and give hope to millions. It is in times of great need, not in great prosperity, that funds for safety net programs must be expanded. Only by investing in programs that give people a sound foundation on which to build their lives can we ensure the prosperity and well being of our nation’s future.
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.