March 18, 2013
By Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
The Greater New York-Labor Religion Coalition is compelled to speak out against the recently enacted cuts in federal spending – “the sequestration.” These cuts are morally offensive as they do not take into consideration the disproportionate impact they will have on those who are already struggling to meet their basic needs in an economy that has yet to recover from the financial crisis.
We call upon the leaders of Congress and the President to recognize the harm these cuts will have on millions of Americans as well as on the nascent recovery of our economy. It is contrary to the moral vision of our nation that those who have the least in our society should be asked to bear the greatest burden in addressing our federal budget deficit, while those who have benefited the most are asked to do the least. For persons of faith, this is a perversion of justice.
The cuts that have been imposed will have real, harmful consequences for a cross-section of Americans. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that about 125,000 individuals and families will be put at risk of homelessness. An additional 100,000 formerly homeless persons might be removed from emergency shelters or other housing arrangements. The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities estimates that 575,000 to 750,000 low-income women and children who are eligible for nutritional assistance will not receive benefits. Veterans seeking help with their transition from active duty to civilian life would be affected as the Department of Labor’s Veterans Transition Assistance Program would have to reduce operations. What does our nation accomplish with cuts such as these? They represent a mindless assault on federal spending fueled by an anti-government ideology that does not respect the simple truth that there is a role for government in addressing the critical needs of our citizens and providing those services that are truly a national responsibility.
At a time when the concentration of wealth in this country is becoming more pronounced, it is unconscionable that there are those in Washington who refuse to consider the need for greater federal revenue. A recent report by Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley shows that income rose by 11% for the top 1% of earners in 2011, while earnings declined for the remaining 99% by 0.4%. The top ten percent of earners in 2011 took 46.5% of all income, the highest proportion since 1917. Even if you do not accept that such concentrations of wealth present a profound moral issue for our nation, you should accept what a growing body of economists acknowledges, namely, that such concentrations of wealth are harmful to our nation’s long-term economic well-being. Federal revenue can be increased with minimal impact on the wealthiest of Americans. This increase in revenue will help us reverse the cuts that are having the greatest impact on the most vulnerable of our citizens and insure that all levels of government can continue to provide the services that are essential to our nation’s well-being.
The Greater New York-Labor Religion Coalition stands in solidarity with all of the workers adversely impacted by these senseless budget cuts. We express particular solidarity with government employees, veterans, children, unemployed and many others who are most directly impacted by these cuts. We pledge to mobilize our members to advocate in Washington for an end to these draconian cuts and for the creation of a federal budget that gives priority to helping those struggling in these difficult economic times. For our nation to assert that it is one nation under God, we must be prepared to act in accordance with what we know God desires; that all of God’s people have what they need to live in the dignity that is God’s gift to each one of us. This will require that those who have received a disproportionate share of our nation’s wealth be asked to contribute more to the common needs of all.