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B’nai B’rith International is deeply concerned about a variety of both foreign and domestic cuts President Obama is proposing in the budget plan he unveiled on Feb.14. Though mindful of the very real need to rein in the massive deficit, the president’s budget proposal could have a severe, negative impact on some of the most vulnerable population sectors in the nation, while proposed cuts to foreign aid could hurt America’s standing in the world.  

The budget represents the president’s funding priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

B’nai B’rith recognizes the need to carefully address the deficit during what is still a difficult economic time in this country. But the impact of some of the proposed cuts could have devastating, long-term consequences both inside and outside this country.  

On the domestic front, a five year proposed freeze could eventually jeopardize a range of aging services programs, especially as the baby boomers begin to retire, and older Americans continue to have a difficult time finding work.   

Cuts in the president’s proposed budget, including much more limited funding for programs that help the very poor and elderly like subsidized housing and home energy assistance (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP) could have troubling consequences.  

“We respect that tough times call for tough decisions,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “But we object to budget cuts that will have disproportionate consequences for people who have no other resources for some of their most vital needs.”

B’nai B’rith was encouraged to find that Social Security—which is self-funded and does not contribute to the deficit—is not on the chopping block.

Investments in international affairs only make up about 1.5 percent of the total budget, but the returns of good will and international standing are priceless. Proposed cuts could jeopardize this vital investment.

We are pleased that aid to Israel will remain at levels agreed to in a memorandum of understanding between the United States and Israel.

We are hopeful that aid to Egypt (the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid) will remain at current levels, which will be essential in ensuring an orderly transition to democracy there.

“We know the president has difficult choices to make and bringing down the deficit should be a priority for the country,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “But investing in America’s name and reputation abroad pays off in priceless ways.”

The president’s 2012 budget comes out just days after the new House leadership proposed harsh cuts to the remainder of the 2011 budget.  

B’nai B’rith is hopeful that in the weeks and months to come, the understandable interest in deficit reduction does not push out reasoned discussion of the real world consequences of cuts on a global scale and to essential social services and programs for the most vulnerable.