Central Conference of American Rabbis Opposes White House Budget Proposal

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Central Conference of American Rabbis strenuously objects to the White House’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget unveiled this week. Every budget is a statement of values. The President’s budget recommendation neglects the foundational values that we hold dear as Reform rabbis and as Americans.

The proposed budget neglects the value of rofeh cholim, healing the sick. Some of the proposal’s deepest cuts are to Medicaid, the United States’ health care safety net for the most financially vulnerable among us. The Administration would slash spending on health science at the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other institutions vital to a healthy nation now and into the future. Further, women’s health would particularly be at risk, with beneficiaries of government-funded health care forbidden from using federal dollars at Planned Parenthood, the nation’s most trusted provider of sexual and reproductive health care. In addition, the draconian cuts proposed for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration threaten the well-being of millions, at a time when preventable death resulting from mental illness, including substance abuse, is an American scourge of epidemic proportions.

The proposed budget disregards the value of hazan et hakol, feeding all. Drastic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps -- and to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children -- could leave millions of Americans hungry and malnourished.

Lilmod ul’lamed, the value of learning and teaching is also neglected. Education cuts range from public elementary schools to higher education, reducing support for educational innovation, for programs that particularly benefit low income schools, for vocational training, and for college student loans.

The proposed budget is negligent in regard to the value of lo titein michshol, not placing stumbling blocks. The  proposed cuts to food and drug inspection and occupational safety enforcement would present an intolerable risk to unsuspecting consumers and workers.

The proposed budget is in conflict with the value of havaat shalom bein adam l’chaveiro, making peace between people. This budget proposal enhances defense spending while slashing funds for diplomacy. Since the days of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, American diplomats have served our nation by enhancing peace worldwide, reducing the need for defense spending.

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof, is the value of pursuing justice.  By nearly eliminating support for representation of indigents in civil cases, as proposed in this budget, the Administration would place a price tag on access to American justice.

The value of al tifros min hatzibur, not separating from the community, is treated with great carelessness in this proposed budget. With less than one percent of its federal budget, the United States builds tremendous good will and shares our values with the poorest citizens of planet Earth. Cuts to global health, refugee programs, and international disaster assistance are just a few examples of the proposed diminution of the United States’ role where it is most needed internationally. Moreover, we oppose any and all funding for the proposed southern border wall, which would not address the United States’ crying need for comprehensive immigration reform, but would be a lamentable symbol of our nation’s chosen isolation.

Bal tashchit is the value of not destroying the Earth. We take exception to proposals that would slash conservation programs, watershed protection, flood prevention, and a host of other vitally needed environmental programs at a time when the frequency and severity of devastating storms are increasing.

Despite all of our misgivings about the Administration’s budget proposal, only some of which are listed here, we commend President Trump for proposing a pilot program to support paid parental leave. Among its many benefits, this program would work to address women’s equality in the workplace.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis calls upon Congress to reject the White House budget proposal and to adopt instead a budget that reflects cherished American values.

Rabbi David E. Stern           Rabbi Steven A. Fox
President                            Chief Executive

Central Conference of American Rabbis