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Statement of Mark J. Pelavin Associate Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism on the House's Passage of a $792 Billion Tax Cut
July 23, 1999

Our tradition teaches us not to be hard-hearted or tight-fisted to our needy neighbors. We are told: "Open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your land" (Deuteronomy 15:11). In passing a $792 billion tax cut yesterday, the House of Representatives decided instead to open its hands to the wealthy and to forsake the needy in our land.

The tax cuts passed by the House of Representatives yesterday are made possible only by inflicting massive cuts in discretionary spending. The cuts use money from a surplus that only exists if we assume that discretionary spending will remain capped at a grossly inadequate spending level. If these tax cuts are enacted, vital programs — such as those that feed the hungry, house the homeless, and educate children — will be sacrificed. While programs that help the needy are suffering, the benefits of the tax cut will be going primarily to the very wealthiest in our nation. Citizens for Tax Justice estimates that the wealthiest 10% of taxpayers would receive 69% of the tax benefits, with close to half of the benefits going to the richest 1%.

It is 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).


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.

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