As do our Roundtable members, the NJSJR leadership team awakens each morning only to be greeted by yet another social dilemma birthed in the wake of decisions made in Washington. While these decisions too frequently cause us to gasp and reel in alarm, we must not allow them to disable us … rather must rebound quickly by raising our collective voices in loud concern. While there is much we can respond to, this month we are circling around three national issues. In the days immediately ahead we encourage you to contact both Senator Alexander and Senator Corker, and your member of Congress, to express your feelings about each.
Sen. Lamar Alexander
3322 West End Avenue, Suite #120, Nashville, TN 37203
Sen. Bob Corker
3322 West End Avenue, Suite #610, Nashville, TN 37203
Congressman Jim Cooper
605 Church Street, Nashville, TN 37219
Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn
305 Public Square, Suite 212, Franklin, TN 37064
ISSUE #1 – BUDGET
Although the President promised during his run for the presidency that he was going to fight for those who were left behind, the budget proposal released this week is evidence of the opposite. The proposed budget increases military spending by 10 percent (even though U.S. military expenditures already exceed the next seven largest military budgets around the world, combined) and includes substantial corporate tax cuts (even though U.S corporate profits are a higher than they’ve been since 1947). Funding to cover both of these proposed budgetary cornerstones will come from cutting billions of dollars from the Environmental Protection Agency, which would strip the EPA of its capacity to enforce environmental laws and regulations at a time when climate change threatens the future of the planet. It will also come from de-funding NEA, Public Broadcasting, HUD, Planned Parenthood, and a cache of safety net programs including food stamps, housing, and Medicaid (at a time when the U.S. has the highest poverty rate among all advanced nations, including more than 1 in 5 American children). We realize that this is only the first step in the budgetary process, but with Republicans in control of both the House and the Senate these priorities have a good chance of being enacted which is why we have to raise our voices now. Please contact our two Senators and your Congressman and share your feelings about the proposed budget.
ISSUE #2 – HEALTH CARE
House Republican leaders unveiled legislation this past week called the “American Health Care Act” that is designed to not just repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act but dismantle Medicaid as well. The proposed legislation severely cuts insurance subsidies for those on low-income, erodes valued health benefits, and devastates Medicaid (which in Tennessee covers half of our state’s children and pregnant women), while it dramatically increases healthcare subsidies for those better off, including the very wealthy. The independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded this week that the new GOP plan would push 24 million people out of healthcare in the next decade. While we are hearing glimmers of concerns even from the right, both of our Senators have gone on record as saying this proposed health plan is a good start. Please contact both to let them know you disagree. Here are some talking points:
- Before the ACA, there were 41 million uninsured Americans. The ACA shrunk that number to 28 million. The recently-proposed GOP Health Plan will increase that number to 52 million in less than a decade.
- The GOP Health Plan disproportionately benefits the wealthy and healthy at the expense of those who are low-income and sick. It makes coverage less accessible and affordable.
- The GOP Health Plan increases out-of-pocket costs while eliminating many of the ACA’s benefits and consumer protections.
- The GOP Health Plan makes deep cuts to Medicaid and will cap federal funding for the program, which will result in reduced access to coverage and benefits. This will cause harm to millions of seniors, people with disabilities and children. In Tennessee, half of our state’s children, half of our state’s pregnant women, and over 60% of our nursing home residents are on TennCare, our state’s Medicaid program.
ISSUE #3 – REFUGEE BAN
On March 6, the President signed a revised executive order again barring the resettlement of refugees for 120 days, banning the entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, unnecessarily calling for extreme vetting, and lowering the number of refugees allowed into the United States from 110,000 to 50,000—the lowest since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980. Fortunately, this week a federal judge in Maryland temporarily blocked parts of President Trump’s revised travel order. Hours earlier, a federal judge in Hawaii placed a nationwide block on the President’s ban, delivering a major blow to his policy just hours before it was set to go into effect. Both judges concluded that the President’s travel ban was designed to discriminate against Muslims and pointed to his own comments to defend their ruling. Meanwhile in Nashville, the President declared this second round of rejection to be judicial overreach and pledged to fight these decisions all the way to the Supreme Court. Please share your concerns and outrage about the President’s pledge to close our doors to refugees with our Congressional delegation. Here are some talking points:
- Depriving refugees of a safe-haven turns vulnerable human beings into scapegoats and does nothing to make us safer.
- With over 65 million refugees and displaced people fleeing persecution around the world, the refugee crisis is larger than at any point in human history. The United States must respond with urgency and compassion, something we can do while simultaneously maintaining the highest levels of security for our country. It is not an either/or situation.
- Jews have a history of fleeing violence and persecution. Like contemporary refugees, we became part of the fabric of this country. Guided by this history and the Jewish value of “welcoming the stranger” we urge our elected officials to use their influence to keep America’s door open to refugees and to continue to welcome into our community families fleeing persecution.
Thank you for taking action and using your voice.
One last note… our next Roundtable event will be an open to the public forum on gun safety to be held later this month. More information will be forthcoming.
NJSJR Presents “Gun Sense in America”: March 30, 2017
7:00 pm at West End Synagogue (3810 West End Ave.).
An Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable sponsored forum, “Gun Sense in America”, will feature Beth Joslin Roth, executive director and policy director of the Safe Tennessee Project; and Laurie Woods, PhD., lecturer in sociology at Vanderbilt University and former police officer. The event is open to the Nashville community. More detailed information will be forthcoming.