Saperstein: In crafting his budget, President Obama has made many difficult choices, reflecting the trying times of our day. Not surprisingly, we are pleased by some of the choices and disappointed by others.
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WASHINGTON, February 14th, 2012 -- In response to President Obama's proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
The annual release of the President's budget provides an opportunity to consider how our nation's values are reflected in its spending. The budget is a moral document, making a clear statement of our priorities for the coming year and beyond. In crafting his budget, President Obama has made many difficult choices, acknowledging the trying times our nation, and the world, face. Not surprisingly, we are pleased by some of the choices and disappointed by others.
Above all, during this economic turmoil, our national commitment to guarding the most vulnerable in our society cannot be abandoned. We applaud proposed extensions to unemployment insurance benefits and the payroll tax cut as critical to helping unemployed and working Americans alike. We are further pleased to see that the President restored cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that were part of the 2010 child nutrition bill and were scheduled to occur in the coming fiscal year. We also welcome the strong funding of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
So too do we welcome President Obama's commitment to ending the tax cuts enacted under President Bush for the wealthiest Americans. As we stated in a resolution adopted at our URJ Biennial in December, it is vital that tax policy distributes the tax burden equitably in accordance with individuals' and corporations' ability to pay and provides a just and fair method of producing the revenues necessary for the well-being of our country. At the same time, we note the President's proposed decrease in the amount individuals earning more than $250,000 would be able to deduct in charitable contributions, from 35% to 28%. Charitable nonprofits do vital work, particularly assisting those who are in need of aid beyond what other support systems, including the government, can provide, and they rely on donations to continue their good works.
We applaud as well President Obama's commitment to the health and well-being of women across America. Continued funding for programs to prosecute violence against women and help victims of such violence are important investments. A renewed commitment to evidenced-based teen pregnancy prevention is also welcome, as it empowers the next generation to make the best choices for their bodies and themselves.
The budget funds anti-bullying initiatives in schools and increases funding to combat hate crimes generally. It includes increases in funding to assist Americans living with HIV/AIDS through initiatives such as the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program and HIV/AIDS research and prevention efforts. Our Jewish tradition requires us to use all our knowledge and abilities to partner with God in healing and tending to the sick, and we are pleased to see a budgetary commitment to help care for all members of our national community.
The proposed budget for FY 2013 includes provisions that will do much to continue our commitment to take care of the earth l'dor v'dor, as it is passed on from one generation to the next. Increases in funding for pipeline safety and investments in green energy and infrastructure, and cutting tax breaks for fossil fuel producers all will help to forge a greener and healthier planet. We applaud the Administration's efforts to support initiatives that will spur growth in the present, while guarding the well-being of the earth into the future.
We also note with gratitude the continuation of a strong relationship between the U.S. and Israel, reflected in the ongoing financial and military aid agreement in place since 2007. These funds are a testament to the longstanding and fruitful relationship between the two nations and the United States' commitment to its democratic partner in the Middle East. The funding is also an investment in the U.S. economy, thanks to the more than 75% of American aid to Israel that eventually returns to our shores to be spent on domestic goods and services.
At the same time, we are concerned by several areas in which the budget falls short. An increase in funding for E-Verify rewards a program that has no place in our national tradition of welcoming immigrants seeking the opportunity to contribute their talents and skills while bettering their lives. We are also disappointed to see cuts in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, especially as some in Congress are seeking to undermine the agency. And the 21% cut in the Department of Housing and Urban Development budget is more troublesome still, as HUD provides vital services to many of the most vulnerable in our society including the elderly, disabled, and those living in poverty.
Moving forward, we commit ourselves to making sure that the final budget reflects the highest values of compassion and caring for those most in need while also ensuring that our nation remains fiscally sound and secure.