The American Dream is bleeding to death. The exsanguination of our body politic commences at the extremities, where less fortunate and more vulnerable citizens dwell. Here are some of the first fruits of the 2013 half-year sequester that has just begun.
Data on some initial effects of the sequester comes from a webinar sponsored by the Coalition on Human Needs. Stories are now beginning to trickle in; similar anecdotes will be swelling into a flood. Not that our august national media, mesmerized by the ongoing political spectacle in D.C. and the prospects for a “Grand Bargain,” are likely to take much notice of the plight of lower-income working people and their families.
In Franklin and Columbus, Indiana, a macabre lottery decided which of the 160 students in the Head Start program would be cut. Thirty-six were abruptly removed from the program for drawing the short straws.
The Window Rock Unified School District in Arizona may have to close three schools serving indigenous children and dismiss 105 school personnel because of the sequester cuts for Title I educational funding for low income schools
In New York 1600 fewer women will be screened for cervical and breast cancers.
Two hundred inner city youth will not be served this summer by the Philadelphia Jobs Corps.
Nearly $17 million in funds will be cut from 5700 work-study students and 15,000 Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants recipients in California.
Seven hundred fewer low-income families will receive housing vouchers in Cook County, Illinois.
And for those long-term unemployed who must rely on federal funds for extended unemployment benefits, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that the governmental administration may not be able to implement the scheduled 10.7% cut as scheduled on April 1. The bad news is that when it is able to slash benefits beginning on April 28, the cut will be readjusted to 12.8%.
The Republican Ryan Budget, if enacted, would solve the problem of slow bleeding to death by hastening the patient’s demise. Sixty-six percent of its spending cuts would come from programs that support lower income persons (Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, job training), amounting to $3,300 billion dollars in cuts over 10 years. These cuts reduce all social spending far below the already inadequate levels.
The House majority brushed aside the much fairer and more rational budgets proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus, which would have eliminated tax loopholes for the rich and corporations in order to fund vital public services. Instead, the Republican controlled House voted in favor of the Ryan Plan which offers benefits to the affluent Republican political base by providing $5.7 trillion in tax cuts to wealthy individuals and corporations and by repealing the health care reform taxes.
And those poor corporations need the relief that is being denied to the unemployed, students and poor! Take General Electric, which over the last five years made $81 billion in profits and paid a minus $3 billion in taxes. Or Boeing, which made $21.5 billion in profits and also paid no taxes and received a net refund. Or ExxonMobil, which made even higher profits, though it did actually manage to pay a bit (less than 1%) in U.S. taxes after receiving its oil subsidies.
I am outraged that the .01% at the apex of the economic pyramid–whose wealth is 66,000 times that of the average American family–persists in their assault on the lives and futures of our less advantaged fellow citizens. Let us demonstrate our outrage at the betrayal of the fraying American dream. There will be thousands of ongoing stories like those enumerated above, stories of unnecessary pain inflicted on children, on working single parents, on the unemployed, on those seeking health care, shelter and education. And, unless things change dramatically, the pain will go on and on, stretching not just over this fiscal year or the next, but continuing into the indefinite future, blighting the hopes and dreams of our people. We must share these stories and together change the direction of our society.