Pleading poverty

Bob Fulkerson is the state director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

Like last year’s budget, which passed by the narrowest of margins earlier this month (with Congressmen Gibbons and Porter among those casting deciding votes), the president’s proposed budget would slash funding for veterans, poor children and seniors—in order to make tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. The Bush budget would terminate food assistance to more than 400,000 low-income seniors. Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program would lose $5 billion over five years and $12 billion over 10 years.

Bush seems intent on continuing the upward concentration of wealth. From 2001 to 2006, the Bush tax cuts will have deprived the Treasury of more than $1 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Even more costly than the one-time cuts would be making them permanent, with an estimated direct cost of $2.8 trillion over the next 10 years. That’s money taken from our schools, hospitals, social services (including deadbeat-dad enforcers), and veteran’s homes. And that $2.8 trillion, approaching the annual deficit in size, will go into the pockets of the wealthiest.

So in the coming months, when your representatives claim fiscal prudence by cutting social programs while voting to make tax cuts permanent—get out the torches and pitchforks and tell them—show them—you know better!

Not only do the Bush budgets cast our nation into a nightmare of poverty and neglect, they sharply reduce Nevada’s revenues. Over the past four years, the Bush budgets have cost Nevada $1.1 billion. We rank second in the nation among states hit hardest by the Bush budgets.

But it gets worse. Last year’s budget contained sinister provisions that would kick elderly African Americans off Medicaid by requiring birth certificates. Proponents of this provision said it was necessary to prevent illegal applicants from receiving Medicaid—but a study by the Department of Health and Human Services found no substantial evidence that such fraud is actually occurring. Many of these Americans don’t have birth certificates; they were born in an era in the not-too-distant past when access to hospitals and birth certificates was denied due to racial discrimination. Indeed, one study showed that 20 percent of African Americans born in 1940 were never provided with a birth certificate. Again, Congressmen Gibbons and Porter joined with the Bush administration in casting deciding votes against compassion.

But Bush didn’t completely forget Nevada. His budget recommends $544 million for Yucca Mountain “scientific research” and development. He also wants to spend $250 million on a multi-year program to resume commercial nuclear-fuel reprocessing, a program that was abandoned in the 1970s due to extreme environmental and proliferation problems.

It’s time for us villagers to rise up and stop budgets that can only destroy the lives of people on the furthest edges of our society.