In the midst of drastic cuts on domestic spending in the Federal Budget, many are asking what happened to the "compassionate conservatism" platform George W. Bush and his Republican counterparts were campaigning on over the last four years. In revealing a complete lack of concern for society's least powerful, Americans have realized this once appealing slogan is now only a fantasy.
Currently, the Bush administration has demolition plans for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the millions who depend on its resources.
Domestic spending is set to decrease by 1 percent, yet in fiscal year 2006 HUD will be losing a disproportional 11.5 percent of its budget. The slash in funds, which mainly focus on urban areas, comes at a time when state and city budgets are severely challenged. Despite a slight economic upturn last year, 27 major cities across the country reported an increase in requests for emergency shelter assistance and demands for emergency food assistance in major cities increased by 14 percent.
While the President's objective in slashing the domestic budget is to decrease the federal deficit, it does not appear fiscally nor morally responsible. Social programs comprise a meager 16 percent of the entire budget, yet slight cuts in these programs are incredibly devastating to society's most vulnerable. The Iraq war is costing the American taxpayer 1.6 billion dollars a week, however in contrast, the proposed HUD budget is a trivial 28.5 billion dollars.
President Bush's budget proposal would terminate the $4.7 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which communities large and small have used to fund recreation centers, day-care facilities, literacy programs, and opportunities to improve low-income housing.
This indefensible assault on programs which assist the working poor is an alarming trend over the last four years. Consequently it is no surprise, despite the superpower status economically and militarily, this country has the highest poverty rate and the lowest success rate in reducing poverty out of all industrialized nations.
The cuts to HUD are guaranteed to widen the nation's already increasing economic inequality. While eliminating the HOPE IV program for 2006, the President has also requested Congress to rescind the $143 million it had already approved in the 2005 budget.
HOPE IV helps agencies create mixed-income communities by replacing severely distressed public housing and also provides housing assistance for AIDS victims and the disabled. The unspoken mantra of this administration appears to be hardworking, disadvantaged citizens cannot turn to their government for assistance.
In an effort to combat critics, HUD said it would boost funding for homeless assistance to $1.4 billion. This conciliatory gesture, however, is a disservice to the fastest growing segment of the homeless population - families and children. The lack of affordable housing is the greatest cause of homelessness, yet the allocation of this money goes to warehousing people in shelters instead of placing them in more permanent housing. For countless low-income families who spend half their income on rent, cuts in HUD will make living in previously affordable housing impossible.
America, whose robust economy and GDP far outpace any nation, should have little difficulty setting a global example of compassionate, humane, and equal treatment of its citizens. Yet continually, the suffering of the working poor and homeless is unnoticed or disregarded by those in power. It is demoralizing to see the attitude this government has taken towards the least powerful since January 20th, 2001. It is frightening to consider the realities the lower and middle class might face four years from now.
Greg Silverman is research assistant for the Cities for Progress project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC. IPS is the nation's oldest progressive think tank. Greg may be reached at email@example.com.