“Poverty Would Outweigh Them All”: How to Protect the Poor while Reducing the Deficit
A month ago, I tempted you with a taste of current fiscal policy (warning: please read Sequestration Part 1 before this, or you will be very confused, not to mention less informed!). You learned what sequestration is, where it came from and how it affects you and the programs you care about. So now let’s talk about the future. What are the options for avoiding the fiscal cliff? Will it be a cliff, or a slope? But most of all, why should you care?
If sequestration takes effect and the fiscal cliff hits, here is a snapshot of what is at stake:
- WIC: “In my area support services for low income, rural families are few and far between. Two small food banks, one Family Resource Center and two local church’s [sic] with various services. Our local WIC office plays an enormously huge role, in many different ways to the health and welfare of the children, families and overall community. Many families that are considered “at risk” for abuse & neglect, malnutrition, children developmental delays (Cognitive & Social Emotion), substance use & abuse… just to name a few would move from the “at risk” stage to involved or diagnosed stage without WIC monitoring, intervention and referral.” —FSW, Children’s Home Society of Washington, Vaughn, Washington
- Nutrition Programs: “Giving education as well as help with the nutrition to the mothers has made a big impact of health in our family. We have a history of obesity and diabetes back to our grandparents and being part of the WIC Program has helped change this repetitive course to structuring a healthy lifestyle. Sure there is education coming from the schools, health centers, and local community outreach programs but not like the WIC Program, which deals directly from ―the foundation of life –educating and nourishing life from pregnancy to toddlers, and making sure the caregivers involved have the same knowledge as the parents to raise and incorporate a healthier lifestyle. Again, thank you for the WIC Program.” —WIC Participant, Navajo area, Arizona
- Head Start: “I do believe that Head Start helped me learn to love and prepared me for school. I always state that I became a teacher because of the teacher I had in Head Start. I love young children and love being able to help families put their children on the right track for their education. I am currently the Education Coordinator for the Head Start I attended as a child, and am currently working towards my masters degree in Early Childhood Education.” –Education Coordinator and Head Start Alum
However Congress attempts to resolve fiscal cliff, we must continue to support those programs that aid the poorest in our communities. Jewish tradition is explicit in its support of a safety net of programs serving the most vulnerable. We cannot rebuild our economy by slashing programs like SNAP (food stamps), Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act. As Congress considers paths toward deficit reduction, they must avoid further cuts to these vital programs.
Our Jewish tradition teaches us that poverty is the greatest issue facing our society: “…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). The budget is a moral document, reflecting the priorities of our community. As Congress crafts a new budget, they must protect the programs that help to alleviate poverty.
Take action now! Urge your Members of Congress to use a balanced approach to deficit reduction that will not destroy the safety net of programs serving the most vulnerable.