Rabbis Saperstein: "Millions in our American community continue to struggle every day to meet even their own and their families' most basic needs. This is morally intolerable in a nation of such great abundance and wealth. Any deficit reduction agreement must not further increase poverty or inequality."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., December 6, 2012 -- In response to the ongoing fiscal negotiations, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent Members of Congress the following letter urging, "Above all, this means protecting the programs that aid the most vulnerable and provides them with the tools to raise themselves out of poverty." The full text of the letter follows:
Dear Member of Congress,
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, with membership of more than 1800 Reform rabbis, I write to urge you to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction that protects the safety net of programs serving Americans in need who are struggling in our neighborhoods. Above all, this means protecting the programs that aid the most vulnerable and provides them with the tools to raise themselves out of poverty.
As people of faith, we are inspired by the commandment to care for those in need in our communities (Deut. 15:7-11). This is why we are confident that we cannot rebuild our economy by slashing vital programs that help to alleviate poverty and support those in need. A plan for deficit reduction must support our economy while maintaining the effectiveness and longevity of successful anti-poverty programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Earned Income Tax Credit, unemployment insurance, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Medicaid. I urge you to follow the precedent established in all major bipartisan deficit reduction deals over the past twenty-five years, and echoed in the Simpson-Bowles plan, and exempt all non-health means-tested programs from cuts and any automatic enforcement. Deficit reduction must not further increase the burden on struggling families in our communities.
With the gap of economic inequality ever widening, I also urge you to allow to expire as scheduled those "Bush-era" tax cuts that benefit only the richest two percent, which would save nearly $1 trillion in revenues and reduced interest payments. Securing substantial new revenue from those with the greatest ability to contribute will allow us to meet deficit reduction goals, chart a more sustainable fiscal path forward, invest in the job creation measures our economy needs, and protect the programs and services that families depend upon.
The Jewish tradition teaches that, "...If all the troubles of the world are assembled on one side and poverty is on the other, poverty would outweigh them all" (Midrash Exodus Rabbah 31:12). Millions in our American community continue to struggle every day to meet even their own and their families' most basic needs. This is morally intolerable in a nation of such great abundance and wealth. Any deficit reduction agreement must not further increase poverty or inequality.
Rabbi David Saperstein
Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism