Saturday, January 22, 2005

Under Guise of Deficit Reduction, Bush to Cut Housing Programs For Poor

When it comes to economic priorities, President Bush has been woefully consistent.

Corporations have asked for and received immense help from Bush, in the form of tax breaks and stripping away of regulatory red tape, particularly with regard to environmental or consumer protection.

Sadly, the poor don't run corporations.

If they did, no doubt they would have hosted an inaugural week party. Their representatives would have lobbied hard for assistance. Their spokespeople would have blanketed the airwaves. Rush Limbaugh would have rallied to their defense.

But since none of that happened, there will likely be very litte resistance to the lines in Bush's proposed 2006 budget, which, if passed would purge multiple federal Housing and Urban Development programs, including dozens of economic development and rural housing programs.

Other programs would be switched to the Commerce or Labor departments, where they would have to compete with existing Commerce and Labor programs for federal funding -- almost certainly leading to a steep decline in funding. That's because, over the years, HUD has evolved into an agency designed to support urban interests and low-income citizens, while Commerce and Labor are more receptive to business needs. Guess which is of higher concern to the Bush administration?

Advocates for the poor and leaders of various urban programs, as reported by The Washington Post on Jan. 14, contend that the White House isn't really interested in deficit reduction, for the money being cut from HUD would merely be funneled to other needs, such as a proposed mission to Mars.

The plan was detailed in a December memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget to HUD. The document provides one of the first concrete examples of the types of cuts in the works as the administration comes to grips with a soaring deficit.

Congressional housing aides told the Post that the $4.7 billion Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program -- the bulk of the community planning budget -- could be cut as much as 50 percent. Cities have become dependent on HUD's development programs, especially the CDBG, which has existed for 30 years, city officials said.

Stanley Jackson, director of the District of Columbia Department of Housing and Community Development, said the city has used CDBG grants of $21 million to $22 million a year for clinics, recreation centers, day-care facilities, literacy programs and housing development.

With housing and property values skyrocketing, the need for such programs for low-income families has never been higher, he said.

"If this is a backdoor way of eliminating a program like CDBG, it would have a profoundly negative impact on cities," Jim Hunt, a vice president of the National League of Cities, told the Post.

Under the plan, the CDBG program -- which provides multipurpose development grants to state and local governments -- would be sent to the Commerce Department. The Urban Empowerment Zones and the Renewal Community programs -- both of which offer tax incentives for development in urban or other troubled areas -- would also go to Commerce, as would the Brownfields Economic Development Initiative, designed to revitalize abandoned industrial sites.

Youthbuild USA, a $62 million program to teach teens home-construction skills, would be sent to the Labor Department. The $24 million rural housing and economic development program would probably be eliminated.

HUD could ultimately lose a quarter of its $31 billion budget.

The White House is trumpeting the planned changes as beneficial because they would consolideat redundancies, but administration officials could not provide the Post with specifics about how much money would be saved.

Saul Ramirez Jr., executive director of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials and a former deputy secretary of housing, said that if the goal truly were consolidation, it would make more sense to move the similar but smaller Commerce and Labor department programs to HUD.

"If there are any programs in Commerce that encourage direct economic development to some of the most disadvantaged and blighted areas, those programs are dwarfed by these programs," Ramirez told the Post. "If [consolidation] is what they want, the reverse should be proposed."


Blogger Michael said...

I'm beginning to think this idea of prosperity trickling-down from the wealthy to the poor doesn't work.

8:00 PM  
Blogger RoJo said...

You're an idiot.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Bush Administration could not explain how money would be saved, or how cutting the money could be compensated to HUD through other ways, i.e. grants to developers of low-income housing or something through some other programs.
Nonetheless, in a perfect world, the mainstream press would not step back from this story until Bush provided an explanation how housing for the poor is being short-changed here. It would be front page news.
Many of the people who elected Bush as the "compassionate conservative" are likely continuing to bast in their ignorance of The Real Bush. Keep it going on you big media talking heads!
Meanwhile, we should all remember how Bush can somehow come up with billions of dollars to rebuild the cities in Iraq we had first paid billions to destroy.
Yeah, yeah, I know all you conservatives out there will say Iraq and homeland spending are unrelated issues, blah blah blah.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is wholly a question of priorities - it seems that social programs have officially been moved to the bottom of the list. Maybe the tax-cuts to the rich have actually ended poverty and so now we don't need any social support programs, can someone check that?

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe I read last year that poverty and starvation among U.S. children stood at record highs of recent years under the Bush Administration.
The above blogger though brings up an interesting point. Any statistics to show that the need for HUD housing stock and programs have necessarilly decreased under "the ownership society?"

2:02 PM  

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