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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reform Judaism Convention Passes a Progressive "Manifesto"

Last week Judaism's Reform Movement passed an economic platform that would make the most hardcore progressive proud.

The platform called Proposed Resolution on Principles of Economic Justice in a Time of Fiscal Crisis Sponsored by the Biennial Resolutions Committee called for the government to increase taxes and add to entitlements. For example it calls upon its members to
  • Affirm the indispensable role of the government in ensuring economic justice and therefore call on our Religious Action Center, synagogues, rabbis, and social action committees, to advocate at the national, state, provincial and local levels for the preservation and strengthening of the social safety net to uphold those in need and sustain those who are struggling
    •  Call on the U.S.to rededicate itself to a society based on economic justice, including: a. Preserving vital social safety net programs including, but not limited to: Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, while recognizing that money savings may be necessary to reach budget goals and maintain long term viability – so long as they are done in a manner that minimizes harm to recipients.
    I just reread the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to make sure, but those documents  say our society was based on personal freedom neither document speaks about "economic justice."
    • Supporting expanded public and private investment in job creation.
    The only way the "public sector" creates jobs is to "get off the backs" of the private sector, but I dont believe that's what the Reform Movement means.

    This one is easier to understand, when they say "revenue enhancements" they are talking about higher taxes.
    • Addressing, in long-term efforts, the growing debt and deficits (before those deficits create a more serious long-term economic crisis) through comprehensive approaches involving expenditure cuts, program efficiencies, and revenue enhancements, while eschewing deficit reduction efforts that increase poverty or that significantly reduce funding for critical programs serving the needs of vulnerable populations
      This next point may have come directly from one of Obama's campaign speeches, the Reform Movement calls for taxing the rich:
      • Ensuring that tax policy distributes the tax burden equitably in accordance with individuals’ and corporations’ ability to pay and provides a just and fair method of producing the revenues necessary for the well-being of our country. This may include measures such as higher taxes for well-to-do individuals, more equitable taxes on corporations and targeted tax cuts aimed at job creation and at providing a stimulus (e.g. the proposed continuation of the payroll tax reductions); and Aiding those struggling to find work, through retraining programs and through the provision of unemployment insurance of adequate duration.
        I wonder what they believe is adequate duration...99 weeks isn't enough? And as far as the tax rates go According to an AP report, this year, households making more than $1 million will pay an average of 29.1 percent of their income in federal taxes, including income taxes and payroll taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.

        Households making between $50,000 and $75,000 will pay 15 percent of their income in federal taxes.
        Lower-income households will pay less. For example, households making between $40,000 and $50,000 will pay an average of 12.5 percent of their income in federal taxes. Households making between $20,000 and $30,000 will pay 5.7 percent.
        But fairness and equality is not what the Reform Movement is looking for---redistribution of income is-- and just like the President they support, Reform Judaism believes if it takes class warfare to make it possible that's OK also.
        • Support timely, targeted and effective government action aimed at job creation and, to the degree feasible, paid for through expenditure savings and equitable tax enhancements.
          The Reform Movement is calling for even heavier reliance on big government, something that goes against traditional Jewish thought.

          We are given "free will" by God, and free will is the divine version of limited government. God picks the winning direction, but does not pick winners and losers.
          “Created in God’s image” is supposed to teach us that just as God acts as a free being, without prior restraint to do right and wrong, so does man. God does good deeds as a matter of his own free choice, and because we are created in his image so can man. Only through free choice, can man truly be, in the image of God. It is further understood that for Man to have true free choice, he must not only have inner free will, but an environment in which a choice between obedience and disobedience exists. God thus created the world such that both good and evil can operate freely; this is what the Rabbis mean when they said, “All is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven” (Talmud, Berachot 33b).
          Jewish tradition takes a positive view of both the institution of ownership and the accumulation of wealth. It respects economic success, so long, that is, as it is obtained honestly, and proper respect is shown for the social responsibility that comes with it. That social responsibility is an individual duty and a job for the community led by its religious leaders, but not for the government.

          The book of Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:23 says:
          “If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him proselyte or resident so that he can live with you”
          Notice it says live with you, it does not say live in a government facility, because the obligation is on the individual, the family or the tribe. The Hebrew word for charity, tzedaka, has in it root the word tzedek which means righteous, because we are taught that giving charity one of an individual's keys to righteousness.

          This Reform "progressive manifesto" will result in their followers moving away from their faith. It teaches their congregants that the government should always bear the responsibility of protecting the individual; there is no individual responsibility, just the collective bailout.

          A Rabbi once taught me that when God created the world, sparks of his holiness were spread across the earth. Every time that a person makes the choice of performing a righteous act such as charity or helping someone find a job, one of those sparks is purified and sent back to heaven. Through that process we become closer to God.

          This Reform Judaism Progressive platform teaches that their is no personal responsibility, just the government. Instead using our good deeds to gain closeness to God, we are to rely on the government to take that responsibility thus spoiling one way we get close to our maker,

          Not surprisingly, when the President spoke to the conference the day after their manifesto was passed he praised the groups courage, and gave the document his hecksher (approval as being kosher):
          And just last night, you took another step towards the change we need and voted for a set of principles of economic justice in a time of fiscal crisis. And I want to thank you for your courage. That statement could not have come at a more important time. For as you put it, we’re at a crossroads in American history. Last Tuesday, I gave a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, where I described that crossroads. And I laid out a vision of our country where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. And these are not Democratic values or Republican values; they’re not Christian values or Jewish values or Hindu or Muslim values -- they’re shared values, and we have to reclaim them. We have to restore them to a central place in America’s political life.
          The President is wrong (as usual). It does not take courage to abdicate personal responsibility given to you by God, by shifting it to a government that punishes success, you do not create fairness by lying about the "fairness" of rules.

          The Torah Says more than once not to use a persons economic status to pervert justice
          Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of thy poor in his causes; neither shalt thou favor a poor man in his cause. Sh'mot (Exodus) 23: 3-6

          Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment; thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor favor the person of the mighty, but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor. Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:15
          The Reform movement's conception of "economic/social justice" is like the judge who uses economic status to subvert the truth. Jewish law is clear, no man, rich or poor, is favored in this regard. Judges are directed to think clearly and objectively. When you add the fact that their manifesto urges Jews to move away from their personal responsibility (and God) and relying on the government proves the leaders of Reform movement have a bigger interest in promoting progressive politics than they do promoting their faith.

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