Will we balance the budget on the backs of the poor?

How quickly we forget.

Just a tad over two months ago, the lame-duck Congress passed a tax-cut “compromise” that extended Bush-era tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans and protected a larger chunk of the wealth left by multi-millionaires to heirs from taxes.  The two-year tax-cut extension to the wealthy alone will cost the coffers of the U.S. Treasury about $100 billion.

Yesterday, the president put forward his proposed budget for the next fiscal year.  It may fall short of what Tea Party fanatics are pushing Republicans to demand, but it still promises substantial devastation to the poor, an analysis in today’s Boston Globe shows.

“The cuts would have a far-reaching impact,” write reporters Donavan Slack and Stephen Smith.  In Boston, food pantries would get less financial help.  Fuel assistance would be cut for 27,000 people, including the elderly and children. And 6,000 residents — many, undoubtedly, single moms — would find their subsidized day- care slashed.  Without it, some of these parents may simply give up and go on welfare. (I’m very familiar with the math from my own daughter, a single mom who could not stay in the workplace without subsidized child care.)

What’s interesting is that the articles about the current craze to slash the budget never provide much sense of the context or choices that have landed us in this fiscal swamp.

They don’t talk about the hundreds and hundreds of billions we’ve spent on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade.  They’ve shrugged off the tax cuts to the rich as last year’s news. They’ve conveniently forgotten the recommendations of the president’s bipartisan debt commission, which, among other things, proposed ways of scaling back the homeowner mortgage deduction that is tantamount to an added tax break for all those affluent enough to own a home.

This is the American Dream of the 21st century: I’ll keep mine and break the back of the bottom 20 percent — the long-term unemployed,  the elderly, single mothers and their children, the working poor.

Whether because of sharp proposed cuts to Massachusetts mental health beds or slashes of Section 8 federal housing,  cutbacks in efforts to guard against asthma and lead paint in homes or shrinkage of subsidies to the elderly to pay their energy bills — or because of a long list of other hits, society’s frailest are going to get slammed this year.

Hey. Maybe if we don’t look, we can make believe it’s not happening.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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