"RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY FOR RESPONSIBLE TAX POLICY" IS LAUNCHED
April 5, 2001, WASHINGTON, D.C. A panel of religious leaders today spoke out against the tax cuts proposed by President Bush as "too inequitable" and "too large."
They released a statement whose initial 18 Christian and Jewish signatories represent the beginnings of a new "Religious Community for Responsible Tax Policy," which asserts that "responsible tax policy should be structured so that the poorest households benefit."
Their congregations and agencies, at work in impoverished communities, are first-hand witnesses to human need, they said.
"As millions of people parents and children, the elderly, people with disabilities and the working poor are driven to seek charity to meet their most basic needs, we are appalled that the focus of attention in this Congressional session is not on meeting their needs; rather, it is on tax cuts that will mostly benefit the affluent," they said.
The Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, moderated todays news conference. "Theres no budget surplus if there are still people living in poverty," he said.
Also addressing the news conference were Sister Anne Curtis of Network, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; the Rev. John Buehrens, President, Unitarian Universalist Association, and George Regas of the Regas Institute.
The religious leaders full statement follows, along with a list of signatories to date:
"As representatives of the faith community we believe that government is intended to serve Gods purposes by promoting the common good. Paying taxes to enable government to provide for the needs of society is an appropriate expression of our stewardship. We believe the United States of America should have a responsible tax policy for all people, particularly the most vulnerable.
"We are gravely concerned with the current tax cut proposals initiated by President Bush and being debated and passed by Congress. As millions of people parents and children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and the working poor are driven to seek charity to meet their most basic needs, we are appalled that the focus of attention in this Congressional session is not on meeting their needs; rather, it is on tax cuts that will mostly benefit the affluent.
"Polls show that the American people do not want a tax cut if it means cuts in spending for social programs. The size and magnitude of these tax cut proposals endanger the very programs that the majority of people in our country need and support. If the surpluses do not materialize as projected, a huge tax cut that is passed this year would require spending cuts in public education, health care, Social Security, Medicare, economic development, poverty, homelessness and international development assistance for the next decade and beyond. These are the very programs in which our nation should invest.
"It is a disgrace that in this rich country 43 million people have no health coverage and that nearly five million renter households spend over 50% of their meager incomes for shelter or live in substandard housing, while the number of affordable rental housing units continues to decline. Soaring utility costs will only worsen their plight. While unemployment is at an all-time low, millions of people work at wages so low that they cannot support their families. They are the ones who will suffer the most as the economy weakens.
"Responsible tax policy should be structured so that the poorest households benefit. For example, we support increasing the child tax credit and making it refundable so that all families who are too poor to owe income taxes but pay other federal taxes may receive a credit. We also support an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). We support the Presidents proposal to allow non-itemizers to claim a tax deduction for their charitable contributions because we believe this will encourage people to give more to charities that work to address human need. But we do not believe that charitable contributions should be expected to replace government investment.
"Let us be clear, we oppose the tax cut proposal initiated by President Bush and currently moving through Congress. It is too inequitable, too large, and threatens the future well being of our nation."
Director of Legislative Advocacy, National Ministries
American Baptist Churches, USA
Mary Ellen McNish
General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
Rev. David Beckmann
President, Bread for the World
Rabbi Paul J. Menitoff
Executive Vice President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rev. Ken Brooker Langston
Co-Convener, Disciples Advocacy Washington Network
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Jerrye G. Champion
President, Church Women United
Rev. H. George Anderson
Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quaker)
Rabbi Daniel Polish
Director, Joint Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee of U.S.
Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar
General Secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
Kathy Thornton, RSM
National Coordinator, NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
President, Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Bishop Melvin G. Talbert
Ecumenical Officer, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
James E. Winkler
General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society in the United Methodist Church
Assistant General Secretary, Section of Christian Social Responsibility
Womens Division, United Methodist Church
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