Reform Movement Condemns Ryan 2012 Budget Proposal

— Mark J. Pelavin, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Congressman Ryan’s budget resolution prioritizes the wealthy over the needy, and, therefore, does not reflect the values to which we aspire as Reform Jews and as Americans.

The moral impact of a budget is measured by its effect on the person most in need. House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2012 budget resolution fails on this count. By ending entitlement status for Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and by privatizing Medicare, Congressman Ryan’s proposal, if adopted, would fundamentally and unjustly restructure our commitment to seniors and low-income families. By extending additional tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations, it would undoubtedly expose additional social safety net programs to budget cuts.

More after the jump.
Deuteronomy commands, “Do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman.” On the basis of this precept the Reform Movement has long opposed block granting and privatization of entitlement programs. For, as the Union for Reform Judaism’s 1981 resolution on the federal budget stated, “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.” For the same reason, the Union for Reform Judaism in 2001 opposed “tax policies that unfairly and inequitably bestow their benefits on the wealthy” and that “restrict the government’s ability to address urgent needs.” Congressman Ryan’s budget resolution prioritizes the wealthy over the needy, and, therefore, does not reflect the values to which we aspire as Reform Jews and as Americans.

Currently, the federal government matches state spending to cover all individuals who are eligible for Medicaid. Congressman Ryan’s proposal would convert Medicaid into a block grant program, eliminating federal requirements for the program and giving states a predetermined amount of money to spend on health care for the poor, disabled, and elderly. The resolution would make similar changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Whether or not states maintain their commitment to populations in need of assistance would be a matter subject to shifting political winds and short-term economic considerations.

The Ryan proposal would also end Medicare as we know it, substituting the current single-payer model with a system in which seniors would need to choose from a variety of private health insurance policies. Seniors would be eligible for vouchers to pay for the private insurance based on need. This plan would expose seniors to the iniquities and imperfections of the for-profit health care system, causing more seniors to fall victim to poverty and would drive up the cost of health care.

In addition, the proposal is a microcosm of the misguided priorities that created the budget crisis in the first place, lavishing even more tax breaks on the individuals and corporations whose need is least acute. At a time when the federal government brings in less revenue as a percentage of GDP than at any time since President Truman occupied the Oval Office, Congressman Ryan proposes reducing the top corporate and individual income tax rate from 35 to 25 percent for the highest earners. Giving the well-heeled yet another handout would threaten even more social safety net programs with deep cuts.

We call on Congress to pass a 2012 budget that restores fiscal order in a responsible and moral manner-one that would not force the disadvantaged to shoulder the burden of budget cuts.


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