Reform Jewish Movement Joins Coalition in Opposition to President Bush's Tax Cut Proposals
Contact: Alexis Rice or Rachel Orkand (202)387-2800
WASHINGTON, April 3, 2001 - In support of the Fair Taxes For All Coalition Rally at the Senate Swamp this afternoon, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, their 900 congregations and 1700 rabbis, I am honored to join with the hundreds of Progressive groups represented in this coalition to express our deepest concern over President Bush's tax cut proposals, which are currently being rushed through the House of Representatives and will be considered later this month in the Senate.
The budget of the United States is the great moral document of the nation. It reflects the values and vision of our nation; the priorities of our government; the hopes and aspirations of our communities; and, in the most profound way, the actual lives and destinies of the American people, including members of our nation's congregations. For those from the religious community, the moral tests of a nation has been clear for 3,000 years: Does it serve all the people, not just the wealthy? What does it do for the poor and the needy, the elderly and the ill, the children, the widow and the orphan - the most vulnerable of God's children?
Does it serve all the people, not just the wealthy?
Does it treat the poor and the needy, the elderly and the ill, the children, the widow and the orphan - the most vulnerable of God's children fairly?
Does it reflect the prophetic mandate to create a society of justice and equity?
Our tradition teaches us that poverty is destructive of human dignity, that helping people in need is a matter of fundamental justice, not an act of charity. From the time of the prophets, we have acted upon these teachings - and have worked to make real the dictate, "There shall be no needy among you" (Deuteronomy 15:4). Seeking economic justice for all is more than simply an American value - it is a sacred obligation.
It is difficult to see how the priorities reflected in the proposed tax cuts can meet these moral tests. The extent of the proposed tax cuts consumes almost all of the available surplus, once the trust funds are eliminated and money is put aside to reduce the deficit. This will inevitably mean that there will need to be cuts in vital social programs. Instead of deciding first on the size of a tax-cut, we should instead turn - first to some of the vexing structural issues facing our society, including the need for fair and equitable housing, for healthcare coverage for all, for access to affordable childcare, for protections of the environment. Once those needs are addressed - then we can determine the appropriate tax relief.
In addition to not addressing the real priorities of the nation first, President Bush's massive tax cut proposal is also fundamentally unfair. An estimated 12.2 million low- and moderate-income families with children - 31.5 percent of all families - would not receive any tax cut from the Bush proposal. Approximately 24.1 million children - 33.5 percent of all children - live in these excluded families. We cannot stand by while the most vulnerable in our society - the unemployed, the poor, the near-poor, minorities, the elderly, and children - receive no benefits from the tax cut, even as they are the most likely to have their benefits cut as funding for federal programs are reduced to fund this tax "relief."
The projected surpluses are not a once in a decade, or generation or even once in a lifetime, but, literally, a once in a century opportunity to address the vital structural problems in American society. Yet this opportunity is not guaranteed. By spending a surplus that may never exist, we will sacrifice our ability to ensure that economic justice for all Americans can move from the realm of the ideal to the possibility of a fiscal reality.
President Bush asserts that this money is "the people's" and not "the government's." If, on behalf of all the people, however, the government fails in allocating these resources, and neglects addressing the challenges facing our nation today - of structural poverty, limited healthcare, environmental degradation, unfulfilled needs for social security and Medicare, the formidable national debt, the pressing need worldwide for sustainable development and international human rights - we will have missed an historic and unprecedented national opportunity. That would be a tragedy.
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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis .