To the Poor and Needy

Published January 10, 2003, issue of January 10, 2003.
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There isn’t much that’s been left unsaid about President Bush’s new economic plan, a misbegotten mixture of giveaways to the rich and pittances to working families that barely addresses the economy’s pressing need for stimulus and jobs.

Last Tuesday, the day that the president unveiled his $674 billion plan in a speech in Chicago, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America announced that home foreclosures had reached an all-time high during the third quarter of 2002. Yet the president’s plan does little to help folks feeling squeezed by this economy; fully half the benefits would go to the top 1% of income earners — one-fourth, in fact, to those who make $1 million a year or more.

On that same Tuesday, the Commerce Department announced that factory orders had declined for the third quarter in a row, a sign that folks aren’t buying manufactured goods. Yet the president’s plan does little to put spending money in consumers’ hands; only about one-sixth of the plan is directed toward such stimulus.

But the president knows all this. He doesn’t need us to tell him what his plan does and doesn’t do.

What he does need is a reminder of why it matters. And nobody has said that better this week than Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Saperstein responded to the president’s speech with a quote from the president’s beloved Bible, commanding us (in Deuteronomy 15:7) to “open our hands to the poor and the needy among us.”

America is in need. The president’s plan doesn’t help.

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