Tikkun Community Calls for a
in light of Hurricane Katrina

dateline: Sept. 9, S.F. California

Rabbi Michael Lerner, national chair of the Tikkun Community and editor of Tikkun magazine, called on the U.S. Congress and President Bush to launch a massive Domestic Marshall Plan to rebuild New Orleans, to provide upgraded housing for the poor of all of America’s inner cities, to upgrade the social support infrastructure of those cities (including hospitals, emergency care facilities), and to provide catastrophe insurance for all lower income Americans.

“Unfortunately,” Lerner went on, “Democrats have been far too timid in responding to the failures of the Bush Administration, concentrating their critiques on the competence of the federal response but largely ignoring the underlying class and race issues that systematically place the poorest and most vulnerable at highest risk. Without strong intervention on behalf of the poor, the reconstruction and resettlement efforts will again be tilted in ways that are insensitive to the most vulnerable. We’ve already seen this process begin: people being moved from New Orleans into cities where they are given priority to underfunded city services, thereby pushing the poor and homeless of those cities out of the already inadequate services available. Rather than pit these new victims against the victims of past injuries (including the injuries inflicted by downturns in the economy and relocation of jobs overseas), we need a comprehensive plan to eliminate domestic poverty.”

Rabbi Lerner called for a first installment of $80 billion, comparable to the latest supplemental funding for the war in Iraq. “If we gave $80 billion a year for each of the next five years to fund the reconstruction of New Orleans, giving a priority to providing low cost but high quality housing for the poor and homeless of that city, and to fund a massive housing and infrastructure reconstruction of all of our inner cities in ways that made them more habitable for poor and homeless people, we would have taken an important step toward our moral obligation as a society and would be putting meaning behind the Biblical injunctions to care for the poor and the powerless.”

The Tikkun Community has already been involved in encouraging its members to donate funds and volunteer time to help the flood victims.  Our concern, however, is that all the beautiful caring energies will be directed solely at dealing with the immediate crisis (a very important thing to do) and miss the opportunity to address the larger societal changes that are needed and might actually be accomplished if we were to mobilize attention to rectifying the poverty that made this flood so costly in human lives.  Americans are generous, but our government is not wise, and needs the pressure of ordinary citizens to get redirected. Just as we needed a New Deal to get out of the Depression, and not just individual donations to the poor, so today we need a massive societal effort to end poverty as well as rebuild New Orleans. The Domestic Marshall Plan is a first but not full step toward addressing this issue.

If you agree with this statement, please bring it to the attention of your elected representatives on the state and federal level, contact media and ask them to cover this perspective and to interview leaders of the Tikkun Community and its Network of Spiritual Progressives, and please send this to everyone you can and urge them to similarly involve themselves in this effort. And please join The Tikkun Community or its Network of Spiritual Progressives (for more info: read the Core Vision at www.tikkun.org and the Q&A about the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and then join on line (we badly need that support to continue to do this kind of work).

To interview Rabbi Lerner, please call Kathryn at 510 644 1200. Kathryn@tikkun.org.

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