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Bush’s Budget Assailed for Cuts in Aid to Poor, Increased War Spending

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Civil rights activists and congressional leaders assailed President George W. Bush’s proposed budget, saying the $2.77 trillion spending plan will dramatically reduce funding for domestic initiatives while eliminating social programs that serve millions of black Americans.

“As we celebrate Black History Month, it is especially troubling that President Bush would release a budget that drastically cuts student aid, Medicaid, child support and funding for the disabled,” Amaya Smith, deputy press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

These harmful cuts to vital programs are out of line with the values of working Americans and the spirit of black history which emphasizes opportunity for all,” Smith said.

Bush’s budget for fiscal year 2007 calls for increased military spending to fight terrorism and to pay for the war in Iraq, but makes deep cuts in social programs, eliminates or reduces 141 domestic programs and cuts non-security discretionary spending by $2.2 billion.

Democrats argue that Bush’s proposed allocation of $440 billion for defense spending comes at a time when many disadvantaged black Americans—including thousands of families displaced by Hurricane Katrina—are suffering from poverty, unemployment and life without health care.

“The President’s budget proposal exposed a mismatch between what we are doing abroad and what we are doing at home,” Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, (D-MS) ranking member on the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. “There too many gaps in homeland security, and the budget does little to address them.”

Bush’s spending blueprint, which begins October 1, would provide large increases for the military and homeland security, but would trim spending in the one-sixth of the budget that covers the rest of discretionary spending. Nine Cabinet agencies would see outright reductions, with the biggest percentage cuts occurring in the departments of Transportation, Justice and Agriculture.

Civil rights leaders are spending this week poring over details of the budget and formulating their responses. Myra Dandridge, a spokeswoman for the Congressional Black Caucus, told BlackAmericaWeb.com the caucus will soon release its Alternative Budget, and Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, plans to offer his thoughts about Bush’s budget, the economy and the role of black leadership, in a speech Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who defended the president’s budget, said the military must continue to change in order to defend against terrorists who could get a nuclear weapon or launch a biological attack.

“No nation, no matter how powerful, has the resources or capability to defend everywhere, at every time, against every conceivable type of attack,” Rumsfeld said. “The only way to protect the American people, therefore, is to provide our military with as wide a range of capabilities, rather than preparing to confront any one particular threat.”

Treasury Secretary John Snow, who appeared before a Senate Finance Committee last week, said the administration had made the tough choices to fund programs that were working and eliminate those that were not.

“This budget represents the president’s dedication to fiscal discipline, an efficient federal government and the continuation of a thriving U.S. economy,” Snow said.

In mandatory programs—so-called because the government must provide benefits to all who qualify—the president is seeking, over the next five years, savings of $36 billion in Medicare, $5 billion in farm subsidy programs, $4.9 billion in Medicaid support for poor children’s health care. Pell grants, the financial aid program for college students, have not seen a funding increase in five years, and the Department of Education’s $46 billion budget eliminates 42 programs, including initiatives such as drug-free schools.

“The president has shown that he is inflexible, partisan, unwilling to work with others and a poor chief executive who is unable to efficiently and effectively manage the federal government,” Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-FL) said in a statement.

Black conservatives, however, insist that Bush’s spending plan will stimulate job growth and help poor Americans, and many black families, turn their lives around.

“When we look at core safety net programs—housing, health care, education—that impact low-income individuals, the state of the union is not only strong, but in this area the programs are effective and working,” Tara Wall, a senior advisor to the Republican National Committee, told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

Wall said the nation’s unemployment rate is falling, and home ownership has broadened to low-income families; the highest rate of minority home ownership on record at 51.3%.

“The black unemployment rate has tumbled in the past three years from 11.5 percent to 8.9 percent, and while that’s still too high,” Wall said, “President Bush’s policies will continue to achieve results by focusing on giving money back to the folks that pay the bills and directing resources to programs that demonstrate success.”

But Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-IL) said Bush’s $2.77 trillion budget increases money for war and defense, makes tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, takes $1.8 trillion out of the budget over 10 years, and continues undermining programs which take care of “the least of these,” like Medicare and Medicaid.

Jackson said the “No Child Left Behind President” proposes cutting education funds 28 percent, from $88.6 to $63.4 billion, including eliminating 42 programs. Bush’s budget proposes to limit Food Stamp eligibility by cutting funds by $706 billion over five years, Jackson said. The president’s budget, Jackson added, also proposes a reduction in payments to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and other institutions of about $2.5 billion in 2007 and $35.9 billion through 2011.

“So, we now know President Bush’s moral values, budget priorities and political philosophy—rely on the states, faith-based institutions and voluntary efforts to meet the peoples’ needs, undercut federal programs for low-and-middle-income families, cut taxes on the rich and increase funds for the military-industrial-complex,” Jackson said in a statement.

Black health-care professionals said last week that Bush’s budget also targets black women and those who are afflicted with illness.

“Bush’s proposed 2007 budget seems to be intended for the chronically healthy and the relatively wealthy,” Lorraine Cole, president of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

“With black Americans at the top of most lists of chronic diseases and among the least likely to have health insurance, the budget would have a devastating impact on our community, particularly black women,” Cole said.

“The budget would severely hurt programs that help individuals better control and prevent certain chronic diseases,” she added. “For example, diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death for black Americans and fourth for black women. Bush proposes a $20 million reduction in funding for chronic disease prevention, which includes diabetes, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as $11 million less for diabetes and related research.”

Ron Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, said while Bush proposes substantial increases for defense, he will also hold the line on increases in health care spending and offer modest spending for disaster relief as a result of hurricane Katrina.

“Driving down the deficit now means driving down spending for the social and economic needs of citizens in this country,” Walters wrote in a recent essay.

“This is the budget position Republicans have wanted to create all along, and the so-called ‘war against terror’ has helped them achieve it,” Walters wrote. “This must become an increasing part of black economic thinking and a cause for political action.”


Posted by loni on 02/14 at 12:40 PM in Blogging

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