Tag Archives: Economic Justice
Reform CA Wander No More

Wander No More: Reform CA’s Campaign for Affordable Homes in California

By Rabbi Stef Kolin

Everyone in California needs a safe and affordable place to call home. Rents and mortgages within the reach of working families are critical to the moral integrity of our state and to maintaining California’s economy. Today, teachers, firefighters, EMTs, families with children, seniors, veterans, students, and too many other vulnerable and hard-working Californians are priced out of the housing market.

We have an affordable housing crisis, and Reform CA believes it is time to act! Read more…

Hunger Continues to Haunt America

By Rabbi Jonathan A. Stein

For one in six Americans, hunger is a daily reality. That’s right—1 in 6, close to 50 million of our citizens! As you are reading this article, nearly 13 million families in America are struggling with food insecurity. And most of these do not match the stereotype that we too often conjure up in our minds: instead they are normally hardworking families who simply cannot make ends meet and are forced, for lack of sufficient funds, to cut back on the amount of food they eat—sometimes it just the adults, too often the entire family. Read more…

Why Paul Ryan’s Budget Would Be Bad for Women

By Kristen Walling

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This scripture from Luke 12:34 reminds us that the places we allocate our money reveal what is truly important to us. Our federal budget—the decisions about how we will spend our money—reflects what we choose to value. The federal budget plan crafted by Representative Paul Ryan unfortunately presents a dishearteningly bleak future for women in this country. Low-income women, women of color, and elderly women would be particularly hard-hit if Congress were to accept Ryan’s budget proposal as is.

Low-Income Women

The Ryan budget proposes balancing the budget by drastically reducing spending on programs that help low-income Americans, particularly women. Women who are heads-of-households and elderly women are especially reliant on programs for low-income people such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Pell Grants which help low-income people attend college, child care subsidies, and school lunch programs. Here are only some of the cuts the Ryan budget proposes to such programs:

  • $137 billion from SNAP cuts alone: in FY 2011 women were 62% of non-elderly recipients and 66% of elderly adult recipients
  • Up to $125 billion in Pell Grants: in the 2007-2008 academic year, two-thirds of Pell Grant recipients were women.
  • At least $150 billion to unspecified mandatory programs serving low-income Americans, which would likely include programs such as Supplemental Security Income; a majority of SSI adult and elderly beneficiaries in 2012 were women

Slashing spending to these programs would have an especially harmful impact on women and their families. Instead, the budget must maintain programs women rely on and add initiatives that proactively work to support women living at the margin.

Women’s Wages

The Ryan budget also does not sufficiently take into account wages for low-income workers, a majority of whom are women. Although women comprise 47% of the overall workforce, they represent over 76% of workers in the ten largest low-wage jobs. These occupations include childcare workers, cashiers, home health aides, waiters and waitresses, and food preparers. Our current federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) does not provide economic security for women and their families. Unlike other budget proposals, Paul Ryan does not assume an increase in the minimum wage. While the budget itself would not necessarily raise the minimum wage, it is incredibly problematic that Representative Ryan’s fiscal policies are built on assumptions of stagnant wages for the millions of American women struggling to provide for their families. Women need a federal budget that works in conjunction with, rather than against, other legislative policies that support low-wage workers.

Women’s Health

One of the most striking components of the Ryan proposal is that it would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has been absolutely instrumental in securing access to basic health care for millions of American women. Women face particular challenges in finding affordable health insurance that covers the range of health benefits they need, and are more likely than men to struggle to pay medical bills. However, the ACA greatly expanded basic primary and preventive health care options for women, including services such as cancer screenings, pap smears, maternal health, pelvic exams, and HIV/STI screenings. Repealing the ACA would cause millions of women who have acquired coverage under the new law to lose their health insurance and access to these services. A more responsible budget would continue to ensure sufficient funding and access for quality health care programs for women.

It was likely not Paul Ryan’s plan to specifically target women. However, when a majority of the beneficiaries of many of the programs he would slash are women, it is hard to see his proposals as anything short of an attack on women. As people of faith we are called to lift up those living at the margins and struggling to make ends meet. Supporting the Ryan budget is certainly not in line with these values, and Congress must seek policies that would better support women’s economic security, health, education, and ability to provide for themselves and their families.

Kristen Walling is a Policy Advocate at the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries. You can read more by Kristen on the UCC website, http://www.ucc.org

Rabbi Stephanie Kolin

Reform CA: In the Field Choosing Our Next Campaign

By Rabbi Stephanie Kolin

What has Reform CA been up to recently? Over the past few months, the Reform CA Leadership Team and many talented congregational point people have been researching and considering the possibilities for Reform CA’s next campaign.  As many reading this know, one of the issues on the table is the immense need for affordable housing. This need affects some of California’s most vulnerable residents, as well as first responders, families with children, first time home buyers, veterans, and seniors.

We had learned, however, that one significant obstacle to creating a pot of affordable housing funds in California is that the California Association of Realtors (CAR) has been opposed to a key piece of legislation that could make some headway into this important issue: SB 391, the Homes and Jobs Act.

If CAR stayed “opposed,” this legislation would likely not succeed, but if they moved to a position of “neutrality” on the bill, its chances for passing would be much improved.  We also knew that our congregations are full of members who are realtors, in addition to many other individuals who could teach us a great deal about the issue of affordable housing and homelessness in California.

So we had a decision to make: we could wait and see if CAR would stay opposed, or we could make a case directly to them why it is so important for CAR to remain neutral on this bill.  It was a fairly easy decision!

Read more…

Map of Keystone pipeline

Keystone XL Decision Delayed…Again.

To approve the Keystone XL pipeline or not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline? That is the question. And yet, there remains no answer, because as announced last Friday, the Obama administration will be delaying its decision again.

As you may recall, the Keystone XL pipeline is a proposed extension of the existing Keystone pipeline system, designed to transport crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Steel City, Nebraska. The first proposal was in 2008 and over the last 6 years, it has become a hot-button issue for politicians, landowners, environmentalists and the energy industry in both the U.S. and Canada.

Early this year, the State Department released a report indicating that the pipeline would not have a significantly negative impact on the environment. It seemed that this report would catalyze President Obama’s decision to approve the pipeline. However, after a public comment period that yielded a staggering 2.5 million responses, and a 90-day period for interagency comments that was supposed to end May 7th, the process is not nearing an end. In February, a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling posed concern that might, yet again, change the route of the pipeline. Read more…

Rep. Ryan’s Budget: Housing for People Living in Poverty Gets Worse

After years of neglect and cuts to the federal budget, a growing number of low-income people face unaffordable housing costs.  Federal housing programs have proven effective in enabling millions of low-income households to obtain stable, decent housing during recent years.  However, during the last several years, these programs have suffered major cuts.    Read more…

Seder plate

A Tomato on the Seder Plate?

Passover is holiday full of symbolism. We eat the bitter herbs to remind us of the bitterness of slavery. We dip parsley in saltwater to recall the tears of our ancestors in Egypt. The charoset is meant to resemble the mortar the Israelites were forced to use while building structures for Pharaoh and their Egyptian oppressors. These traditional symbols have paved the way for contemporary symbolism, allowing modern Jews to use the Seder plate as a place for social or political expression.

In recent years, placing an orange on a Seder plate has become a statement with various interpretations. Introduced by Jewish feminist and scholar, Susannah Heschel, the orange has come to represent the inclusion of women and LGBT people in the Jewish tradition. In general, the orange is meant to symbolize the rejection of the notion that “a woman, [gay person or other historically marginalized person] belongs on the bimah as much as an orange belongs on the seder plate.”

This year, I invite you to include another item on your Seder plate, a symbol of food justice. Read more…

How the Ryan Budget Harms Our Children

By Ryan Murphy

Last week, the House Budget Committee officially released its 2015 budget resolution, entitled: The Path to Prosperity.  Although the document is merely symbolic due to the bipartisan budget agreement reached last month between House and Senate, it is an important indication of what could emerge from Congress in the near future.  According to Congressman Paul Ryan, the Chairman of the House Budget Committee and key author of the document, “this budget is our vision for how we should fix this country’s fiscal problem.” Read more…