The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
On May 5, President Trump signed a continuing resolution that funds the government through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends September 30. The deal avoided a potential government shutdown and gives Congress and the President nearly five months to negotiate a budget agreement for FY 2018. Continuing resolutions (CR), spending measures that have become common in recent years, are short-term funding agreements that generally extend funding to government agencies and programs based on the previous year’s budget, with slight modifications. In the CR passed last Friday, those modifications included increased spending for the military, the National Institutes of Health and the pension and health care fund for retired coal miners. The agreement did not include funding for President Trump’s proposal for a wall along the border with Mexico.
Now that the government is funded through the end of September, Congress and the President will be intensely evaluating their priorities for the 2018 budget. President Trump has signaled a greater desire to push his own interests in the 2018 budget, even at the cost of bipartisan support. If 2018 spending is allocated based on the traditional budget process, 12 different appropriations subcommittees will each submit their own budget proposals, which together will make up the budget.
The Trump administration released its “skinny budget” in March, which laid out its priorities and desired spending cuts and increases. The Reform Movement stated its concerns with the proposal, as the plan suggested drastic cuts for critical programs. The President is expected to offer a more complete version of this proposal, but Congress will undertake the primary role in crafting the budget.
At its core, the budget is a moral document that should reflect the collective will of citizen needs and interests. Critical programs, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Census Bureau, and the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance account, rely on the budget to determine what they can—and cannot—do.
Jewish law, from its origins, compels us to justly allocate resources, as we are taught to have “an honest balance, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin” (Leviticus 19:36). The term for honest in this circumstance is tzedek, the same word the Torah uses for justice. Balancing scales is about making sure that one person does not cheat the other, about establishing a basic framework of just dealings. In the budget process, we look for a balancing of the scales to pursues justice, that uses the power of the purse as a force for good.