Budgets, Numbers, Sequester, Oh My!
Yesterday, along with many other faith leaders from NETWORK, the United Church of Christ, the Franciscan Action Network and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, RAC Director Rabbi David Saperstein discussed passing a faithful budget with Senator Jeff Sessions’s (R-AL) office, the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee. The budget: cue eyes rolling into the back of your head. While numbers might not be your thing, the budget can be simple to understand – and is the foundation of so much of our nation. It sets the amount of money the federal government has to fund for almost every government program you could care about: education, affordable housing, public health, foreign aid, National Parks, along with parts of Medicare, Social Security and veterans’ benefits. It’s one of the most important bills Congress considers.
Another reason the budget negotiations deserve our attention? All of these government programs have been slashed this year because of automatic cuts called “the sequester.” While you’ve undoubtedly seen this new addition to your lexicon, you might not have seen the human face of it. The sequester has caused social service programs around the country to cut services: Head Start students are being kicked out of programs, seniors are facing the prospect of being forced into nursing homes due to Meals on Wheels cuts and workers seeking jobs are facing large cuts in unemployment insurance.
House Republicans have already proposed locking in the sequester cuts in their budget for the coming fiscal year. We need to fight strongly against these cuts and restore funding for government 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).
Speak up! Champion the cause of the poor in our nation and tell 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 among us!