56th General Assembly December 1981 Boston, Massachusetts
THE BUDGET AND SOCIAL WELFARE
Judaism has always demanded that its moral values be applied to the practical problems of society: "The earth and its inhabitants are the Lord's." Our prophets viewed the earth, its resources, and the wealth derived from them as a sacred trust, to be shared justly by all.
The purpose of society and government is to provide for such sharing, to insure the security and rights of the disadvantaged and the weak.
Judaism teaches that no economic system is sacred; human beings and human needs are sacred. An economic system deserves to survive only if it effectively provides for the well-being of the least powerful, least advantaged members of society.
While this nation must make sacrifices if it is to successfully control the erosive economic impact of inflation, those sacrifices must be distributed equitably and fairly. The fiscal 1982 budget and proposed further cuts by the administration exaggerate and aggravate the worst deficiencies of our current economic system. It promises to increase the gap between rich and poor, between the advantaged and the disadvantaged. Our economy needs to become more democratic, not less; more concerned with the fulfillment of human needs, not less.
Contradictions in the Proposed Cuts
The current thrust in budget cutting would paper over our social problems without significantly reducing the expenditures of funds. This will eventually result in the raising, rather than the lowering, of the costs of maintaining our society. We call on the administration to address itself to these and other examples of the contradictory effects of budget cuts.
Cutbacks in CETA and education funding will result in an increasing number of permanent unemployables in this country, resulting in vastly increased unemployment insurance and other basic welfare funding.
Preventive medicine is known to be far superior and less costly than treatment. We decry budget cuts that further limit food subsidies and Medicaid to pregnant women and infant children. These will be particularly damaging viewed in the context of pending legislation that seeks to deny women access to abortion.
Cuts in the allocation of funds for public education, paralleled by proposed tuition tax credits for private schooling, will work to destroy public education in this country. They will leave our poorest citizens uneducated and, therefore, more likely to be in need of government assistance.
Vast increases in military spending with inadequate regard for any possible savings add no new goods to the economy and are, therefore, extremely inflationary. It is inaccurate to claim that increased military spending will address the problem of unemployment, productivity, or stability. National defense is a reflection of the quality and health of the internal society.
Burdens on state and local governments, as well as on nonprofit organizations serving the poor, will increase as the proposed cuts slash existing programs. This will create additional needs, causing social turmoil in our cities, with all that portends for intergroup relations.
We conclude that pitting one social group against another by limiting sorely needed funds will produce overall social unrest. Increases in crime and social maladjustment will obliterate savings and will adversely affect every social class. An angry and polarized America is dangerous to group relations and specifically to Jewish security in America.
The UAHC believes that the federal budget cuts that have been enacted by the Congress:
Place an unfair burden on the unemployed, the poor, the near-poor, minorities, the elderly, and children, who will have to bear the brunt of these proposed severe cuts. In particular, since the majority of people living below the poverty line are women, we are deeply concerned about a national fiscal policy that will lock women into the cycle of poverty and will offer no relief for the future. 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.
Result in disparate increases in some areas, such as the military budget, which are often at the expense of critical core social programs.
The UAHC Calls Upon:
The government to reassess its economic policies and its budget based on the concerns delineated above. In particular, we are concerned about the severe cutbacks in the areas of job training, food aid subsidies, housing assistance to the elderly and disabled, Medicaid, medical and nutritional aid and information to pregnant women and infant children, and funds for public education.
Our congregations to create or join existing coalitions on the local level to advance this effort. Such coalitions could be with other religious groups, labor organizations, minority groups, civil rights organizations, and senior citizens' groups. We especially urge a concerted effort with Jewish welfare agencies whose own programs now stand imperiled by the proposed budget cuts.
We call on our government to make every effort to encourage risk capital to greater investment in an ever-expanding American economy, and to encourage American labor to greater productivity so that the traditional leadership of American industry in technological and economic expansion can be promoted for the welfare of all.