President Obama: Reductions For the Most Vulnerable First

The D.L.C. may be dead, but it appears to live on in President Obama.  During one of the most severe winters in recent history, the President is reportedly proposing to cut LIHEAP, a program that helps keep the heat on for low-income Americans.  President Obama is seeking to cut it in half to $2.5 billion.  The budget is due on Monday and this is the only reported cut, though the President and his administration have been building expectations for painful cuts.

The reductions to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program are not in the 2012 budget.   The cuts are for the remainder of this fiscal year.  This is a vital program during these cold winter months.  It serves people who make 60% or less of their state’s median income.  It does one thing: LIHEAP keeps the heat from getting shut off because a family or individual can’t pay their gas, oil, or electric bill.  While power companies are prohibited from cutting power during an emergency, LIHEAP ensures that low-income people can keep the heat on outside of few the snow, ice, or cold events that rise to the level of a declared emergency.  This is not a program full of pork.  Cutting LIHEAP is no way for the President to show that he is serious about the budget.

The “center” is clearly where President Obama hopes to find himself.  That’s all well and good, but the center has been pulled so far to the right over the years by the Republicans and the D.L.C. that cutting a program like LIHEAP seems reasonable.  Instead of showing a toughness on the deficit, it is confirming that the Administration has decided that he can achieve the “center” on the backs of the poorest Americans.  The extension of the Bush-Era tax cuts mean that low-income Americans will actually see their taxes rise next year, as much as $800 for a married couple, because the Making Work Pay Credit was negotiated away.

There are also the coming cuts to the Community Development Block Grant Program, nearly $300 million dollars.  Administered by HUD the programs supports non-profits and community groups, funding the development and construction of affordable housing and anti-poverty programs.  CDBG funding helps communities to leverage the needed additional funding for their projects.

CDBG is a large program.  $300 million is a deep reduction, but it is nothing compared to slashing the Community Service Block Grant Program in half.  This program has traditionally funded small community organizations.  These organizations work at the grassroots to develop program for employment, education, income management, housing, nutrition, emergency services, and health.  The CSBG is designed to give communities the resources to begin standing on their own.

These  and the others sure to come are falling much harder on people who have very little voice in the government.  They don’t have lobbyists or money to donate to election campaigns.  The cuts are coming at the expense of the very people the Democratic Party used to defend.  They are coming faster than reductions anywhere else and you’d be forgiven for thinking that these cuts were made by the Republicans in Congress.

We have to make reductions, but we simply can’t only cut our way out of this.  We deflect responsibility to raise revenue by reducing programs that serve low-income Americans and their communities.  The stock market may be rallying, but the recession is still being felt most by our most vulnerable neighbors.  Cuts to LIHEAP, CDBG, and CSBG will only extend the pain for low-income Americans.

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  1. […] his budget yesterday.  It is a tough budget and has made no one happy.  In addition to the cuts previously reported cuts to programs like CDBG and LIHEAP the proposal also zeroes out funding for summer school from […]

  2. […] to the current fiscal year (which we still do not have a budget for).  These cuts included nearly halving the LIHEAP program, which provides funding for local agencies to help vulnerable Americans keep their heat on […]



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