by Kevin Alexander Gray
The 2012 budget proposal looks like it arrived straight from GOP headquarters, but it’s signed “Barack Obama.” The First Black President “seems totally willing ‘to drop the blade’” on many of the Democrats’ core constituent programs “instead of giving Republicans the pleasure.” Virtually every federal program designed to serve the poor and working class has been savaged, preemptively, by Obama’s own hand.
Budget Shows Obama is Lap Dog for GOP
by Kevin Alexander Gray
“His contempt for the poor and working class is clearly expressed in his 2012 budget.”
If any of his liberal supporters had faith that Obama would eventually do the right thing by his constituents by now they should be clued in to the fact that he cares very little about the poor and working class in the United States.
One would have to look extremely hard to find any statement that Obama has ever made using the words “poverty” or “poor.” His contempt for the poor and working class is clearly expressed in his 2012 budget.
The proposed $4 trillion budget targets cutting “non-defense discretionary spending,” or programs that benefit low-income Americans, which makes up less than one-quarter of the overall budget.
An earlier deal was struck to extend the Bush tax cuts for just two years, which increased the deficit by $858 billion dollars. More than $500 billion of that deal constituted tax cuts, with billions more funding business tax breaks and a reduction in the estate tax. Roughly $56 billion went to reauthorize emergency unemployment benefits.
So, less than two months after signing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans into law, Obama proposes a budget that attacks programs that help the working poor and the most needy heat their homes, expands their access to to graduate-level education, put their kids in Head Start, summer jobs for youth, career development, after-school programs, child care, GED programs, affordable housing through cuts in Section 8 vouchers and public housing assistance, homelessness prevention, housing court advocacy, food pantries, access to tax credits, senior programs and more.
Obama’s budget proposal undermines the very type of community-based organizations that gave him his “political” start in Chicago.
In the face of the economic downturn’s depression-level impact on blacks, whose “official” unemployment rate is at 15.7 percent with black youth unemployment at or above 50%, compared with the national rate of 9 percent, the administration intends to slash half the $350 million in annual spending on community service block grants.
“Obama’s budget proposal undermines the very type of community-based organizations that gave him his ‘political’ start in Chicago.”
Obama’s proposes cutting $300 million from community development block grants, the biggest funding source enabling local governments to deliver services in communities with heavy concentrations of poor and minority residents.
The Administration hopes to cut $100 billion dollars from the Pell grant program and other higher education programs. The changes would affect many areas of the Pell grant program. It means the end to the policy where students could qualify for two grants in one year -- one for the regular academic year and a second for summer school. Only one Pell grant per year would be awarded. Another change would affect graduate and professional school students, reducing loan subsidies for these students. Currently the government pays the interest on loans for some graduate and professional school students as long as they remain in school. Under the proposal, interest would build up while students were in school, though students wouldn't have to start paying back loans until after graduation.
The president proposes cutting $2.5 billion from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which received $5.1 billion in federal funds in 2009. That program distributes money to states, which then distribute it to social service agencies to help families heat or cool their homes. The bad economy has forced more low-income households to rely on LIHEAP. About 8.3 million households used it in fiscal 2010, up from 7.7 million and 5.8 million during the previous two years, and the association expects eligible applications to rise to 8.9 million this year.
“It’s estimated that a family of four will receive $59 less in food stamps per month starting in November 2013.”
Even before the current proposed cuts, the Obama Administration was stepping on other programs for the poor. In August, it pushed Congress to pass a child-nutrition bill that was paid for in part with cuts to future funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as “food stamps.” It’s estimated that a family of four will receive $59 less per month starting in November 2013 as a result of the $2.2-billion cut.
The Obama administration is likely to recommend reducing the size of mortgages eligible for government backing, a move that could make it harder to get a home loan. The Administration is proposing a gradual winding down of government-sponsored housing agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The “irresponsible” proposal would collapse an already catastrophically distressed market.
So, the nation’s first black president, a man whose own single mother depended on food stamps to feed her family, is putting the working poor’s necks on the chopping block. And he seems totally willing ‘to drop the blade” instead of giving Republicans the pleasure.
With his cruel 2012 budget, Obama has once again proven to be a lap dog of the Republicans – rolling over before even being asked to do so. And while he signed off on Wall Street bailouts and groveled to the Chamber of Commerce, those in real need have gotten little, if anything, from his Administration beyond the symbolism of his presence in the White House.
And when the dust settles, and the warm glow of symbolism dies down, should Obama get another term, his years in office may just end up being the worse economic period for blacks in decades. Welcome to post-racial America.
Kevin Alexander Gray is a civil rights organizer in South Carolina and author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike! The Fundamentals of Black Politics, published by AK Press / CounterPunch Books. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.