Jewish groups react to Obama budget proposal, part 1

I was wondering what Jewish group would be the first to howl over President Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget outline and proposed three year domestic spending freeze, unveiled today.

The winner: the Orthodox Union, which “expressed grave concerns” about provisions in the budget out line that mean mean “taxpayers earning more than $250,000 will have their ability to deduct contributions to charities reduced from a rate of 35 percent to a rate of 28 percent.”

“Even in good economic times, a proposal such as the one put forth in the President’s budget would adversely affect America’s charities,” said Nathan Diament, the group’s public policy director. “In these distressed times, in which charities are serving more people’s needs while at the same time already suffering a dramatic downturn in donations, the proposal to reduce the rate of tax deductibility for contributions is a recipe for disastrous displacements and cuts in much-needed non-profit sector institutions and services.”

The budget outline includes both tax cuts to stimulate job growth and cuts in discretionary spending. Most defense and international spending is exempt; so are the big entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Some critical domestic spending will be affected; B’nai B’rith International weighed in soon after the OU with concern that  “a major funding freeze for a vital housing program for low-income seniors could have devastating consequences for millions of older Americans.”

In a statement the group noted that the 2011 budget proposal “provides no construction funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 202 program, which helps build and subsidize housing for low-income elderly Americans.”

B’nai B’rith is the “largest Jewish sponsor of federally subsidized housing for the elderly,” according to the statement. No wonder they’re worried.

But the budget outline is just that – an opening move in a political game of chicken. Everybody wants deficit reduction; nobody wants cuts to programs their own constituents care about.   In this congressional election year, expect a lot of bipartisan posturing followed by fierce lobbying by various interest groups to protect their own programs.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.