Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Faith leaders urge voters to reject Tim Eyman's immoral Initiative 1033 (Part II)

Editor's Note: Welcome to the second installment of a special series chronicling religious opposition to Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033.

On Wednesday morning, four leaders representing different faiths came together to urge the people of Washington State to reject Initiative 1033 because it is not in keeping with the values that our state and our nation were founded upon. Each installment in this series will feature a statement from one of the four faith leaders who spoke at the press conference.

We continue with Rabbi Janine Schloss, of the Washington Coalition of Rabbis. Her words on Wednesday morning were as follows.

I was in elementary school in 1978 when Proposition 13 was passed in California. And I remember all of the programs and supplies and activities that were immediately taken away from our school. It was obvious to me as a child in sixth grade how devastating Prop. 13 was... and how much clearer it has become as we watch California today slide into financial disaster.

In every case, from the Hancock Amendment in Missouri in 1980, to the TABOR law in Colorado [in '92], in the Michigan Headley Amendment in '78. Each of these tax-expenditure limiting laws has wreaked havoc on the financial abilities of these states to provide for their citizens.

Especially in this time of deep recession, many analysts believe that the states who specifically have these [rules], like the ones proposed in 1033... These states are financially crushed and have been crushed specifically because they have these laws.

For my first pulpit, I lived in Missouri for twelve years, and even Missourians, who are known to be very "fiscally conservative", voted down an amendment, Hancock II, in 1994, which would have strengthened the original Hancock Amendment. And that, to me, was quite significant, that it was a clear and resounding defeat of that plan.

So why does this matter to me as a rabbi and an educator in our community?

Hillel wrote in the first century, before the Common Era, If I am not for myself, who will be for me? So this seems to be the theory, I think, behind 1033. Perhaps it will make my personal financial situation better, we might think. But, Hillel goes on to say, If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?

We cannot help ourselves at the expense of others. It's unethical and it's contrary to all that Judaism teaches about how to care for our broken world.

When I teach my students, I always ask them: Who could potentially be hurt by this rule or this law if it were to be passed? So I ask you today: Who would be potentially hurt by 1033?

The poor, the sick, the elderly, children, the homeless... those with the fewest resources to advocate for themselves.

But truly, every one of us will be hurt, because 1033 follows the pattern of these previous laws, like Prop. 13, [and] this is what happens:
  • Permanent damage to our healthcare systems (especially our healthcare system for children and for the mentally ill);
  • Permanent damage to services for the elderly;
  • Permanent damage to services for homeless;
  • Permanent damage to roads and highways and all of the infrastructure that helps our economy, permanent damage to libraries;
  • Permanent damage to public safety organizations;
  • And, the issue that's closest to my heart: irreparable and permanent damage to the educational system and the schools of our state.
These [cuts] will hurt children from early childhood education programs all the way up through colleges and universities.

This is simply not right.

Judaism teaches us to speak up and it requires us to live our lives according to the highest values. And so, as someone who takes my faith seriously, I cannot vote for Initiative 1033. Because I will not be responsible for hurting let alone myself, but for hurting more importantly, my neighbors, my community, and all those who share the blessing of living in the State of Washington.

My faith tells me to vote NO on 1033 and I hope yours does too.


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