Added – 10.28.2011
Where Not to Cut the Budget
By Lois Frank
It has been said that the budget of government is a moral document – one that reflects the values and priorities of the people it represents. Today, as budget debates rage on, it would seem we are facing a test of our moral fortitude as a nation. Take as an example the 2012 Farm Bill, the structure and funding of which our Members of Congress, on our behalf are in the midst of negotiating.
Calling this legislation the “Farm Bill” is a bit of a misnomer, as it includes provisions that cover much more than just farms. In fact, the most important title in the Farm Bill is not about farms at all, but about our federal nutrition programs, which serve as a vital safety net to prevent millions of Americans from falling through the cracks into devastating hunger.
Today, 50 million Americans – including 17 million children – are chronically uncertain if or when they will have their next meal. And here in Georgia, where we boast the 10th highest poverty rate in America, the numbers are even more heartbreaking. A staggering 1.7 million Georgians – nearly 18 percent of the state’s population – struggle to put food on the table every day. Hardest hit are the 610,722 young children (1 in 4) whose futures are at risk. Recent research shows that poverty and lack of adequate nutrition not only affects children’s achievement in school, but also reduces their potential earnings as adults.
Enter the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), which is the largest and, according to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, one of the nation’s foremost food justice organizations, the most important program in the Farm Bill. SNAP is the single most effective and far-reaching bulwark against hunger in the United States. Nearly 46 million Americans, including one in four children, rely on SNAP benefits to eat.
For four decades, SNAP has enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Deemed “a government reform that worked” in the National Journal, the program serves as the nation’s first line of defense against hunger. If it is weakened, many millions of seniors, people with disabilities, children, struggling parents – working and unemployed – and others will suffer. If it is weakened, the nation will see more hunger and poverty, worse health and educational outcomes, and higher health costs. If SNAP is weakened, the nation as a whole will be weaker – morally, economically and fiscally.
Our elected officials are responsible for safeguarding the strength of our nation. With the current focus on reducing federal and state deficits, however, programs like SNAP that are instrumental in preventing mass hunger in this country are at risk of being eliminated. It is critically important that we let our elected officials know that they should refrain from balancing the budget on the backs of the least fortunate among us. We must take action to help those who struggle to put food on their tables and those who are slipping out of the middle class and into a lifetime of poverty and despair.
By raising our voices, we can prevent our elected officials from looking away and ignoring this devastating problem. Write letters. Send emails. Make phone calls. Visit their offices.
No one can predict with certainty where the economy is headed, but it seems clear that things are not going to get better quickly. We cannot allow our continued hard times to destroy the lives of millions of families who make up the very fabric of our nation. This is our moral choice.
Lois Frank is a Board member of JCRC, a National Board of Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and former chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
David Minkin, a member of the JCRC, has written an article (link here) responding to the article that was sent from Robbie Friedmann, another JCRC member. As part of our civil discourse about Israel and its future, this article addresses a viewpoint on how the issue of boycotts is not an issue over which we should condemn the sincerely-held beliefs of members of the Jewish community. We all need to pay attention to the differing views of members of our community and learn how to balance the concerns of community members such as Robbie and David while ensuring that we support the ability of Israel to be a safe, secure, Jewish and democratic state. Thanks to both Robbie and David for sharing their concerns.
Following is a link to a message from Harold Kirtz, JCRC President and an article on Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel by Robbie Friedmann.
From Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) – 9/16/2010
In light of today’s Census Bureau report announcing that one in seven Americans live in poverty, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) is reiterating its call for President Obama and Congress to act swiftly to enact needed anti-poverty reforms before the end of the year.
The U.S. Census Bureau today released its estimates on the number of individuals and families living in poverty across the United States. In today’s report, the Census Bureau estimates that the number of Americans living in poverty has risen to 43.6 million, from 39.8 million in 2008. The number of people living in poverty in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates are available.
Today’s findings come as no surprise to the JCPA, which leads the national “There Shall Be No Needy Among You” Confronting Poverty campaign.
“Although not a surprise, today’s Census Bureau report is disappointing,” said Dr. Conrad Giles and Rabbi Steve Gutow, chair and president, respectively, of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “It is a shame that a country as rich as ours has so many people living in poverty. The current recession has only exacerbated the situation. Millions of Americans struggle to put food on the table and afford health care and housing. Congress has taken steps over the last few years to help the nation’s most vulnerable, but more must be done.
“No one wants to see people suffer, and we often ask ourselves ‘what can I do to help’. Our nation’s leaders must take a proactive approach to end this suffering by protecting human needs programs from further cuts, creating sustainable jobs, and clearly supporting one piece of legislation that we’ve made a signature concern–a robust Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act which provides both funding for access and improved nutrition. Anything less is hardly enough.”
As part of its Confronting Poverty campaign, the JCPA along with co-chairs Catholic Charities and the National Council of Churches will coordinate more than 35 national faith organizations for the third annual “Fighting Poverty with Faith” mobilization. This initiative brings together religious, civic and community-service organizations across the country to urge candidates and elected officials to prioritize cutting domestic poverty in half by 2020, promote efforts to protect human needs programs from further cuts and invest in job creation.
More information on this year’s Fighting Poverty with Faith initiative can be found at www.fightingpovertywithfaith.com.
Launched in 2007, JCPA’s “There Shall Be No Needy Among You” Confronting Poverty campaign urges local, state and national leaders to advance legislation and programs that help provide food, shelter and additional work and educational opportunities for the nation’s most vulnerable. JCPA designed the campaign to increase national commitment to reduce poverty and to inspire communities across the country to mobilize to sponsor anti-poverty programs as part of the “Fighting Poverty with Faith” campaign and other initiatives.
From Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) – 9/7/2010
On Tuesday, September 7, JCPA President Steve Gutow joined in Washington, DC with religious leaders from across the country to attend an emergency summit in response to rising anti-Muslim sentiment. The summit was hosted by the Islamic Society of North America and included Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, Michael Kinnaman of the National Council of Churches, and Rev. Rich Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.