Statement of Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism at Religious Community for Responsible Tax Policy Press Conference
View Religious Community for Responsible Tax Policy letter
Washington Hilton Hotel
April 5, 2001
On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, whose more than 900 congregations encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis, I am honored to join the esteemed religious leaders here today to express our deepest concern over President Bush's tax cut and budget proposals.
We are here today because the Administration has proposed a series of tax cuts which will fail to benefit those in the most dire need. More then 12 million low- and moderate-income families with children -over 30 percent of all families - would not receive any tax cut from the Bush proposal. Nearly 25 million children - a third 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. As Jews, we are taught that helping fellow human beings in need, tzedakah, is not simply a matter of charity, but of responsibility, of righteousness, and of justice. The Bible does not merely tell us to give to the poor, but to advocate on their behalf. We are taught, to "speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy."
It is thus both unacceptable and unconscionable for the government to provide tax cuts that benefit the richest at the expense of the most needy amongst us. Instead, we should be investing in initiatives that will ensure that all Americans have a bright and prosperous future and that will help us realize the biblical vision "there shall be no needy among you" (Deuteronomy 15:4). We should be seeking to protect and expand Social Security and Medicare, to save our world from environmental degradation, to establish health care for all, to support sustainable development and international human rights, to feed the hungry among us.
And we must not forget that we are not alone in this vision. According to a recent ABC/Washington Post poll, 80% of Americans believe that a tax cut should not be the top priority of our nation, and somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of the country believes that the surplus estimates are unrealistic. According to a recent CNN poll, 64% of Americans want the tax cut to be smaller to allow more spending for either education or social security. And momentum is building. Only yesterday, of course, the Senate voted 53-47 to reduce the budget resolution's tax-cut figure to less than $1.2 trillion. We must continue to raise our voices, to let our elected leaders know that we stand behind those who are choosing a responsible, equitable tax cut for all Americans.
Caring for the poor, and advocating for the fair and equitable treatment of all, are more than American values. For people of faith, these are sacred responsibilities. And the more closely we look at these proposed tax cuts, the more clearly we see that they would contradict the mandates of our common moral heritage and would gravely damage the well-being of so many who are struggling to survive in our country today. And the more firmly, we are committed to working to ensure they are not enacted.
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.