The highest level of tzedakah (righteousness), exceeded by none, is that of the person who assists a poor person by providing him with a gift or loan or by accepting him into a business partnership or by helping him to find employment – in a word, by putting him where he can dispense with other people's aid.
Last week, President Trump sent his 2018 budget proposal to Congress. Widely denounced as cruel and heartless, pundits and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have sought to placate us with the pronouncement that the proposal is “dead on arrival”. This message is meant to persuade us that we have dodged a bullet. But make no mistake, the bullet is still speeding toward us.
The Trump budget is very much in line with previous Republican budget proposals, as illustrated in this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. So, while the Trump budget might be dead, the same policy proposals will still be put forth, just under other names.
Our faith traditions teach us to share our bounty with those less fortunate than ourselves. Jewish tradition teaches that the highest level of giving is to provide the poor with the means to lift themselves out of poverty, to the point that they no longer need help. The Republican policies would turn this teaching on its head. They would withdraw the assistance (food stamps, health care, housing assistance), without providing the means to end poverty (education, job training, economic development).
These extremist policy proposals target the most vulnerable in our communities. Those most at risk include the elderly, children, and the disabled, as funding for Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Supplemental Security Income are slashed. Working families will struggle to get even their most basic needs met, as nutrition assistance, health care subsidies, and low-income housing are all on the chopping block.
Touted as a ‘job creation budget’, the reality is these policies will end funding for education programs, student loan supports, job trainings, and other supports for low-income workers and their families. Instead, the real winners will be the wealthiest Americans, who will see an average of $50,000 in tax savings every year.
This week, Congress is on recess. We must take advantage of this recess to call and visit our Senators and Representatives in their home offices or attend their town hall meetings and urge them to oppose budget policies that will make America sicker, hungrier, and poorer. Instead, we urge them to support policies that help people meet their basic needs, that invests in our future by investing in infrastructure, education, health care, renewable clean energy, and provides needed support for the elderly, disabled, and our children. Use this link to find your Congressperson.