Reform Movement Leader Slams Ryan Budget
In response to the introduction of a 2013 budget resolution by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism issued the following statement:
As an affirmation of our national priorities, the budget is inherently and inescapably a moral document. We support, and have long supported, a federal budget that reflects our solemn moral obligation to guard the most vulnerable in our society. House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), however, has chosen a different path. By ending the entitlement status of Medicaid and Medicare, fundamentally altering the tax system, and slashing spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and education programs, the Ryan plan would turn our backs on our obligation to care for all Americans.
We are commanded in Deuteronomy “Do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman.” From this teaching and so many others, the Reform Movement has long opposed block granting and privatization of entitlement programs. The Union for Reform Judaism’s 1981 resolution on the federal budget stated, “It is a pernicious idea that somehow the poor, or public assistance to the poor, is the cause of our economic problems and that solutions at their expense are permissible.” For the same reason, the Union for Reform Judaism in 2001 opposed “tax policies that unfairly and inequitably bestow their benefits on the wealthy” and that “restrict the government’s ability to address urgent needs.” As we said last year when Congressman Ryan released a similar plan, his budget resolution prioritizes the wealthy over the needy, and, therefore, does not reflect the values to which we aspire as Reform Jews and as Americans.
Under the 2013 Ryan plan, both Medicaid and Medicare as we know them would end At present, the federal government matches state Medicaid spending, so as to cover all individuals who are eligible for the program, which is essential to providing health care to the elderly, people with disabilities and those living in poverty. In his plan, Rep. Ryan has brought back the pernicious proposal of converting Medicaid into a block-grant program, under which the states would be given a lump sum of funding to administer the program. If demand were to increase suddenly, whether due to a natural disaster or further economic difficulties, the program would be unable to meet that increase—denying untold numbers of Americans the care they need and deserve.
Medicare would see even greater change. Here, Rep. Ryan brings back another proposal from last year’s budget resolution, which we opposed then just as passionately as we do today: The Ryan plan would substitute the current single-payer model with a system in which seniors would need to choose from a variety of health insurance policies. Seniors would be eligible for vouchers to pay for the private insurance based on need. The one modification made to this year’s proposal—allowing seniors to use the voucher to remain in the traditional Medicare fee-for-service program—does not change the fact that this plan would expose seniors to the imperfections and iniquities of the for-profit health care system, running the risk of more seniors falling victim to poverty, and driving up the cost of health care.
A fair tax system is as much a pillar of an economically just society as is a strong social safety net. It is vital that tax policy distribute the tax burden equitably, in accordance with individuals’ and corporations’ ability to pay. Congressman Ryan’s proposal, though, does just the opposite, slashing rates for corporations and wealthier individuals and making the tax code more regressive overall. A government handout to the wealthiest corporations and individuals through cuts to the corporate and top-tier individual tax rates, coupled with the dismantling of services for those living in poverty, offends our notion of an America that cares for all its citizens, no matter their economic status.
We will not abandon the most vulnerable members of our national community. We call on Congress to pass a 2013 budget that assures fiscal and moral order—and does so without overburdening the elderly, disabled, and disadvantaged.