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In an appearance at the Reform movement’s Consultation on Conscience this week, Gene Sperling, the chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, opened by referencing his Jewish upbringing – something the onetime consultant to “The West Wing” TV show rarely has done.
“I feel a bond not because it’s a Jewish organization per se, but you’re an organization that wakes up and asks yourself what you can do for this in our society who need the most justice,” Sperling said. “For me those things are bonded. That’s how my parents raised me. That’s how they raised me about what it meant to be Jewish.”
Sperling outlined the administration’s economic goals – securing a middle class that lives in dignity and extending opportunity to all, not just those born to privilege, he said – and slammed what he described as Republicans’ “slash everything” strategy. Tax cuts instituted during the Bush years, he said, needed redress.
“You can simply slash everything regardless of its impact on the economy or people [so] you can say you met your deficit target,” he said. “You could meet that metric, but at the expense of your larger goals.”
Sperling nonetheless suggested that some spending cuts were inevitable.
“If you say all you care about is jobs and therefore we should just load things up with huge infrastructure projects and other issues and not worry about the long-term deficit,” he said, “you don’t at the same time give people confidence that we as a country are going to deal with those long term deficits.”
Jewish groups have been alarmed by some of the proposed cuts in the Obama budget, particularly a plan to reduce Social Security spending by slowing the program’s cost-of-living increases and by cutting subsidies to pharmaceutical companies that service the Medicare program.
“We urge the President and Congress not to balance the budget on the backs of those among us who are most vulnerable with cuts to critical social services,” the Jewish Federations of North America said in a statement earlier this month.
The Jewish Federations also weighed in against the Obama administration’s plan to reduce the charitable tax reduction from 35 to 28 percent.
“Limiting the deductibility of charitable contributions will definitively result in less giving and therefore place a stumbling block in front of the ability of charities to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and heal the sick,” it said.