Saturday, June 17, 2006


The Plot Against the Poor [Archival materials from PA []
By Thomas Riggins

Federal programs to benefit the poor and elderly have been targeted by the Bush administration and its allies in Congress according to a recent article in The New York Times by Robert Pear ("Applying Brakes to Benefits Gets Wide G.O.P. Backing: Bush to Seek Firm and Enforceable Curbs" 1-9-05).

It seems that President Bush has decided that one of the ways he can carry out the teachings of his favorite philosopher (Jesus) is to stick it to the poor, elderly and sick. Perhaps he has taken to heart Matthew 13:12 "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."

Although I don’t think Jesus was speaking as an economist, this little maxim aptly sums up what the President and the Republican leaders in the House and Senate have in mind for whosoever hath not.

What the President wants to do is reign in benefit programs paid for by the federal government. We have more important things to spend our money on than the hath nots of the country – tanks, helicopter gun ships, and cluster bombs for instance.

He does want to increase funding for "military operations and domestic security." What should we cut? Social welfare measures are the prime targets. An example is "housing assistance for low-income families." There just isn’t enough homelessness in the United States and with the influx of poor families to streets and parks after the cuts go into effect there will be plenty more people to help with faith based initiatives and Christian caring.

The President will have the help of Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire (what’s he doing in a Blue State?) the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Herr Gregg is quoted as saying he wants to help "put the breaks on the growth of entitlements" that is of the nonmilitary kind.

The National Science Foundation will be underfunded in the new budget being prepared by the President (it goes to Congress in early February). The Bushies wanted to cut the science budget – who needs science anyway? It gets in the way of the President’s views on global warming, stem cell research, pollution levels and environmental problems. But after a stink from the scientific community and Republican Senator Chris Bond of Missouri, they decided to flatline it instead. If science gets with the program it might get more money next year.

The National Institutes of Health were also on the chopping block. With the medical community warning that Asian avian flu could become a pandemic here in the U.S. killing thousands, it seems like the perfect time to curtail medical research. The flu might even have some Malthusian benefits if the streets and parks get too crowded with hath nots.

However, the Bushies are not completely insensitive to reality, especially since they now make their own. They won’t cut the health budget; they will even increase it 2 per cent "which would not be enough to keep pace with the rising costs of biomedical research." Well, we can afford to fall behind in that field since so many Americans don’t have the insurance to get the treatments that the research would come up with anyway.

The new Medicare Law has to be looked at too. This law "offers prescription drug coverage to all 41 million elderly and disabled beneficiaries." Herr Gregg voted against it because it was "fiscally irresponsible" – what do these elderly and disabled people want from the rest of us anyway. His fellow Republicans recognize that this law is actually a boondoggle benefiting insurance and drug companies not Medicare recipients so it will not, in all likelihood, be cut. But its the thought that counts.

Anyway Herr Gregg opines that spending a lot of extra money on Medicare will lead to a "a ‘massive tax increase’ on workers." It doesn’t occur to a Republican that some people other than workers might get a tax increase. As for Medicaid, "the health program for low-income people," the Bushies are reported to still be working on how to cut that one – we have faith that they will find a way.

The President also wants new legislation to "make it more difficult" for Congress in the future to increase benefits for Social Security and, listen up vets, "veterans disability benefits." So vets, please don’t get disabled while in the service. Not only won’t you get armor for your vehicles but don’t look forward to a whole lot of new disability benefits. Still, the Republicans love you – they just don’t want to spend a lot of money on you, after all you can’t buy love.

Well, I could go on but I think you get the point. If you voted for Bush and most other Republicans I hope you won’t ever become a hath not and need Social Security, affordable housing, state of the art medical care, prescription drugs or anything produced by science. You get what you vote for [unless the elections are rigged] so know what you want.

--Thomas Riggins is book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at

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