February 24, 2002
The terrorist attacks of September 11th and subsequent events have generated an inevitable shift in national priorities and altered the legislative landscape in Congress. The nation has properly focused and must continue to focus on issues arising from the fight against terrorism, on defense and security, recovery and rebuilding. At the same time, we should not lose sight of the fact that September 11th represented an attack on our American way of life and on the principles that define our nation. Not the least of these is our national commitment to economic and social justice. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) believes that part of our response to the attacks upon our nation must be a vigorous and sustained reaffirmation and re-commitment to those principles.
The JCPA has long been committed to a broad social justice agenda. We have been vigorous in advocating policies and programs to fight poverty and to help address the needs of disenfranchised vulnerable populations, including the elderly, working poor, disabled, youth, and refugees. Now, in a time of economic downturn and in the aftermath of horrific terrorist attacks, new economic pressures are likely to swell the ranks of the poor and their needs will increase. These conditions will bring not only personal suffering but also the potential for growing poverty and a widening income gap to undermine our unity and weaken our national spirit.
Our response, therefore, must include renewed commitment to our traditional agenda, to invest in America by working to eliminate poverty, enrich our public schools, provide adequate affordable housing, guarantee healthcare to all Americans, and provide for the needs of our children and senior citizens. We must be on the front lines of advocacy for those affected by the economic impact of September 11th as well as for those struggling long before that event. We must refocus on those areas of need that existed before September 11th, including national long term care for the elderly, low income housing assistance, job training, and other measures that break the cycle of poverty. We must remember as well that one of the consequences of September 11th has been the serious impact on the livelihoods and economic well being of tens of thousands of Americans. We must provide relief for those facing the greatest risk of economic hardship through expanded healthcare and unemployment benefits and other benefits, especially for those low-income workers most harshly affected. These people should not have to depend on private charity alone. Rather, as a nation, we must respond fairly and compassionately to their circumstances.
Even as we battle terror, we must remember the essential principles of economic and social justice that define our nation, and recommit ourselves, with reenergized determination, to advance the kinds of social justice investments in America that sustain and fundamentally strengthen our nation.