Then came the national protest movement known as Occupy, the looming re-election campaign, the continually tanking economy.... and Obama decided it was time to pivot back to pretend progressivism. He fired his bankster chief of staff and hired a different bankster chief of staff who is now insisting they never were Austerians. You can't make cuts in a time of recession, they shrill. It's all the Republicans' fault. Call Congress! Pass This Bill!
So, when the White House released its budget last week to minimal fanfare, they tried to gloss over all the de facto austerian discretionary cuts. "It looks worse than it actually is," they insist, counting on nobody actually reading its thousands of pages. "The money is just being switched around.... there's a lot of waste and redundancy.... when ObamaCare finally kicks in years from now, it'll all be good."
Ha, ha, ha. I spent half an hour skimming the Osterity Budget last night. A cursory glance reveals that if you happen to be in that one third of Americans now classified as either dirt poor or teetering on the brink, Fiscal Year 2013 is not going to be very good for you. I will be blunt: this President does not give a rat's ass about poor people. The cuts may seem miniscule in the big picture, but for people who must count every penny, they are literally the difference between life and death. Here is the official White House budget-unveiling propaganda:
We now face a make-or-break moment for the middle class and those trying to reach it. After decades of eroding middle-class security as those at the very top saw their incomes rise as never before and after a historic recession that plunged our economy into a crisis from which we are still fighting to recover, it is time to construct an economy that is built to last.As you can tell, Obama still hasn't been able to completely wean himself from the bad habit of comparing the most powerful country on earth with a family living within its means. And he is talking only to the "hard-working folks" about getting a fair shake and fair shot. If you are poor, old or disabled, then you are not doing your fair share and this budget makes it painfully clear that you have no shot at reaching that fabled Middle Class. Here are just a few examples of how this Democratic administration would like to punish our most vulnerable citizens:
The President’s 2013 Budget is built around the idea that our country does best when everyone gets a fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same rules. We must transform our economy from one focused on speculating, spending, and borrowing to one constructed on the solid foundation of educating, innovating, and building. That begins with putting the Nation on a path to living within our means – by cutting wasteful spending, asking all Americans to shoulder their fair share, and making tough choices on some things we cannot afford, while keeping the investments we need to grow the economy and create jobs. The Budget targets scarce federal resources to the areas critical to growing the economy and restoring middle-class security: education and skills for American workers, innovation and research and development, clean energy, and infrastructure.
The Budget is a blueprint for how we can rebuild an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded..
Housing for Persons with Disabilities: a cut from $165 million to $150 million. This may seem miniscule, but if you are physically challenged and on a waiting list for an apartment outfitted with ramps, wheel-in showers and other amenities, you are going to have to wait even longer. There is a real shortage of rental units for disabled people as it is. The Obama budget assures us that current construction for special housing will go on. Just no new disabled-friendly housing units, because you have to cut the waste.
Community Block Grants: funding was already drastically cut last year, leading to a nationwide protest by mayors serving inner cities. Now, President Obama proposes to cut 2013 aid to poor neighborhoods nearly in half, from $679 million to $350 million. The reason? The Government Accounting Office and Health and Human Services have determined that there has not been enough "oversight" of entities receiving the grants. Hmmmm... I guess all those paper bags full of cash being dropped on ghettoes are finding their way into the wrong hands. Drug Lord Hamid Karzai needs it more in Afghanistan, and God knows there is no oversight on the forever wars.
The Job Corps: being cut from $1.703 million to $1.650 million. Another seemingly miniscule, gratuitous cut, from a program designed to train disadvantaged youth. Again, without going into any details or providing one iota of evidence, the White House explains that it's cutting this program in order to launch a "bold reform effort to improve outcomes and strengthen accountability." Uh-huh. Spend less money to improve something. This is very Paul Ryanesque, using the rationale that youmust destroy something (Medicare) to improve it. Reforming the Job Corps smells like another privatization scheme to me.
Children's Mental Health Services: being cut from $117 million to $84 million. No new grants will be issued, and no needy children newly diagnosed with emotional disturbances will be accepted into existing clinics. No explanation. It is now estimated that a quarter of all children fall below the poverty level. Since economic hardship is a known causative agent in depression and other mental illnesses, it is stunning to me why this budget has not been quadrupled. More totally gratuitous, deficit hawk chest-thumping.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance: there was shocked disbelief last year when the president cut this funding. He is doing it once again, with another cut from the already low $3.472 million to $3.020 million. Luckily, this winter was fairly mild and there are no known cases of people freezing to death because they couldn't afford heating oil. Congress actually restored some of the money Obama had cut last year.
If you thought that the government's fraudclosure settlement with the banks was a kick in the teeth, they are now planning to kick some of the hardest hit victims while they are still down. Obama, while bragging on how he will help upper middle class people adjust their mega-mortgages in exchange for letting the banks get off scot free, wants to make severely poor people contribute a bigger chunk of their meager resources to their subsidized rent payments. I was happy to see an editorial in today's New York Times critical of this heartless plan:
Affordable housing advocates are rightly alarmed by proposals in the White House budget and in Congress that would drive up rents for the nation’s poorest public housing residents, many of whom are in households that subsist on less than $3,000 a year. If the federal government raises rents in housing subsidy programs that shelter about 4.5 million households, it must do so in a way that shields the poorest from eviction and homelessness.
Under current federal law, housing authorities have the option of setting a minimum rent of $50 per month. About a quarter of public housing agencies around the country have set the minimum below that number, allowing some of the poorest families to pay $25 or less. A bill in the House would require that the minimum rent in public housing be raised to $69.45. The White House budget would raise it to $75.
These may seem like small amounts, until you consider households where single parents with two children might be subsisting on food stamps and about $250 in cash payments from the federal public assistance program. Many of these families are already teetering on the verge of homelessness. Some in Congress support raising the minimum rent as an adjustment for inflation, but the resources of poor families generally have not increased.In the adding insult to injury category, President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner this morning rolled out a brand new plan to cut corporate tax rates in exchange for maybe sewing shut a few of those pesky loopholes with some very cheap thread. Oh, and it's too hard to really fix the Tax Code in less than several years. But it is good politically to say that you'd like to, because it will make the Republicans seem anti-business if they don't agree to it during this election season.
I am feeling shaken. I feel like this country's citizens are being lined up in front of a firing squad and shot. And it isn't fair.