Friday, April 01, 2005

Supporting a culture of cheap life

On the news of Terri Schiavo's passing, President Bush announced:

I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life, where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, 'specially those who live at the mercy of others. The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. Cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in favor of life.

NPR, All Things Considered, 31 March 2005.

Meanwhile, what President Bush is not telling you is that what he really supports is a culture in which life is cheap, Americans are not all treated to the same rights, the strong savage the weak, and the presumption is always that if you can't pay your own way, well, just go away and die...unless the cameras are turned on:
President Bush has proposed more than $200 billion worth of cuts in domestic discretionary programs over the next five years, and cuts of $26 billion in entitlement programs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which analyzed the president's proposal, said:

'Figures in the budget show that child-care assistance would be ended for 300,000 low-income children by 2009. The food stamp cut would terminate food stamp aid for approximately 300,000 low-income people, most of whom are low-income working families with children. Reduced Medicaid funding most certainly would cause many states to cut their Medicaid programs, increasing the ranks of the uninsured.'

Education funding would be cut beginning next year, and the cuts would grow larger in succeeding years. Food assistance for pregnant women, infants and children would be cut. Funding for H.I.V. and AIDS treatment would be cut by more than half a billion dollars over five years. Support for environmental protection programs would be sharply curtailed. And so on.

Conservatives insist the cuts are necessary to get the roaring federal budget deficit under control. But they have trouble keeping a straight face when they tell that story. Laden with tax cuts, the president's proposal will result in an increase, not a decrease, in the deficit. Shared sacrifice is anathema to the big-money crowd.

The House has passed a budget that is similar to the president's, except it contains even deeper cuts in programs that affect the poor. In the Senate, a handful of Republicans balked at the cuts proposed for Medicaid. Casting their votes with the Democrats, they were able to eliminate the cuts from the Senate budget proposal. The Senate also added $5.4 billion in education funding for 2006.

All the budgets contain more than $100 billion in tax cuts over the next five years, which makes a mockery of the G.O.P.'s budget-balancing rhetoric. When Congress returns from its Easter recess, the Republican leadership will try to reconcile the differences in the various proposals. Whatever happens will be bad news for ordinary Americans. Big cuts are coming.

The advances in areas like education, antipoverty programs, health services, environmental protection and food safety were achieved after struggles that, in some cases, took many decades. To slide backward now (hurting millions of people in the process) because of a desire to siphon funds from those programs and hand them over as tax cuts to the wealthiest members of our society, is obscene.

Bob Herbert, "The Era of Exploitation", NY Times, 25 March 2005.


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