by Vadim Gershteyn
Advocacy and Community Organizing Intern
With Illinois deficit the worst in the nation, at an astounding $43.8 billion in the red, policymakers have to make difficult decisions about our nation’s fiscal responsibilities. Until recently, however, the responsibility has been shifted mostly onto the most poor and most vulnerable. On Friday, Nov. 9th, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) intern Vadim Y. Gershteyn joined Roots of Justice, IIRON, and others outside of Dick Durbin’s office in protesting proposed cuts to Medicaid and Medicare as part of the budget reduction strategy put forward by Congress. Medicare is a popular, highly-efficient program that remains solvent and fully-funded for at least twenty to eighty years. Medicaid is many people’s only safeguard against serious illness or even death. The efforts to privatize either of these programs (especially Medicare) would mean less medical coverage for our seniors and at-risk populations.
At a townhall meeting attended by Roots of Justice, IIRON, and other groups, our federal representatives Jan Schakowsky, Mike Quigley, and Danny Davis declared their commitment to blocking austerity measures in balancing the budget. Senator Dick Durbin has not signed on to the measure, backed by Majority Leader Harry Reid, which bars cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. In balancing the budget, there has been far less support for raising taxes on the very wealthy, who now pay only a 15%-20% effective tax rate, lower than the rate for many middle-income Americans. There has also been little Congressional support for a “Robin Hood” tax, which levies a tax on financial transactions that can regulate high-risk transactions and brings much-needed revenue to the federal government.
On the state level, we can help bridge the fiscal gap by supporting a Fair Tax initiative in Illinois that will shift the burden from the poor and middle-class to the very wealthy (read more about JCUA’s position on the fair tax initiative).
The responsibility for the economic collapse caused by the banking and financial industry cannot be levied on the very poor and the powerless. We cannot stand idly by as the people most hurt by the 2008 financial meltdown make sacrifices to balance the budget while corporations and the very wealthy do not pay their fair share. It is a commitment that dates back to our prophets, to take care of the poor and make sure the burden of social responsibility does not fall on the most vulnerable. Sen. Dick Durbin should join our representatives in saying no to cuts to our social safety net and no to austerity.
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