Path to Prosperity—or Highway to Homelessness

Congressional Democrats joined Republican extremists in slashing the safety net for poor families, seniors, the disabled and homeless.

by Lynda Carson

On April 14, the draconian, budget-slashing proposal known as H.R. 1473, which was promoted by Tea Party radicals and right-wing Republican extremists, was passed in the House and the Senate, and then signed into law by President Barack Obama. About $38 billion was cut from the nation’s domestic programs in a skirmish that nearly shut down the government. H.R. 1473 is reputed to be the most extreme budget-cutting legislation passed by Congress in American history.

People are increasingly desperate in these harsh economic times when the rich are not paying their fair share of taxes. So desperate that, in January of 2011, it was estimated that about 100,000 needy, low-income families would apply for the coveted, Section 8 housing vouchers during the five-day application period when the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) opened up its Section 8 waiting list.

Section 8 voucher contracts allow low-income households to pay only 30 to 40 percent of their income towards rent, and the government subsidizes the remainder in monthly rental payments to the landlord.

Despite the need for thousands more Section 8 vouchers for the poor, OHA Executive Director Eric Johnson said in a S.F. Chronicle article, “There are currently only 650 vouchers available, and about 50 vouchers get freed up every month.”

With the passage of H.R. 1473, the nation’s housing programs and many other programs for the poor and the working class were hit hard with major funding cuts. A number of Democrats sided with extremist Republicans in shredding the safety net by voting for H.R. 1473, including California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Also, a number of California’s members of the House of Representatives sold out and voted for H.R. 1473, including Jackie Speir, Anna Eschoo, Jim Costa, Michael Thompson, Brad Sherman, Howard Berman, Adam Schiff and Susan Davis.

With the passage of H.R. 1473, among many other budget cutbacks, $504 million was cut from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. The WIC program is a federally subsidized food program administered by the states, serving nutritionally at-risk, low-income, pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, including infants and children.

The WIC program serves millions of infants born in the United States, and offers supplemental nutritious foods, nutrition education and counseling, in addition to screening and referrals to other health, welfare and social services. WIC operates through 1,900 local agencies in 10,000 clinic sites at county health departments, hospitals, mobile clinics, community centers, schools, public housing sites, migrant health centers and camps, and Indian Health Service facilities. In 2009, the WIC budget was $6.8 billion, and the 2010 budget was $7.25 billion.

Also, $600 million was cut from community health centers all across the nation. Soaring food prices across the nation make these severe budget cuts to programs serving women, infants and children even more devastating, at a time when families are least able to afford the barest of necessities, just to survive.

HIV and disease-prevention funds were cut by $1 billion, and H.R. 1473 cut $25.1 million out of the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Voucher Program, grabbing over half of the funding from the veteran’s cherished housing program. The veteran’s housing program presently has a total funding of only $49.9 million, and according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 23 percent of the homeless population in America are veterans, and 33 percent of the male homeless population are veterans.

 

“Safety Net”  Artwork by Art Hazelwood

“Safety Net” Artwork by Art Hazelwood

 

H.R. 1473 also made damaging reductions in nearly all the nation’s low-income housing programs. The legislative assault on housing included $125 million cut from the Section 8 housing program, $149 million from the Public Housing Operation Fund, $456 million from the Public Housing Capital Fund, $426 million from the Section 202 housing program for the elderly, $115 million from the Section 811 housing program for the disabled, and $100 million from the Hope VI program.

H.R. 1473 also cuts $390 million from the Low Income Housing and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for the poor, and $942 million from the Community Development Fund, plus $51 million from Native American Housing Block Grants, $218.2 million from the Home Investment Partnerships program, and $654 million from the Community Development Block Grant program.

In addition, billions of dollars from other programs assisting the poor, elderly and disabled were eliminated.

After the passage of H.R. 1473, Republicans smell blood and are intent on even deeper cuts to domestic programs. On April 15, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed new legislation called the “Path to Prosperity,” in an effort to shrink the government so small that it could be drowned in a bathtub.

The proposed Path to Prosperity is actually a scheme to make the rich even richer. This supposed path to prosperity goes in some very strange directions. It attacks Medicaid/Medicare and Social Security, and plans to cut $6.2 trillion from mostly domestic programs during the next decade, devastating the poor, elderly and disabled. It also offers an additional $800 billion in tax breaks, and would prevent the expiration of the $1.5 trillion Bush-era tax breaks to the rich and super-rich.

With so many Democrats siding with Republicans lately in the attacks on the poor, the poor and working class do not have proper representation any more.

The Tea Party/GOP’s so-called Path to Prosperity is a master plan to enrich the already wealthy, while creating a Path to Homelessness for everyone else.

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule@yahoo.com

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