Last Monday, President Bush released his 2006 budget and, as seems to happen each time this administration acts, the middle and lower classes are the ones who will suffer from this travesty. As the President continues to skim off the Social Security trust fund (while warning of its looming bankruptcy), he has requested an additional $19.2 billion for the Pentagon, which brings the total to $419 billion. Of course, this amount excludes the coast of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will be paid for by additional requests at a later time, causing the deficit to balloon to even greater proportions for our children and grandchildren to pay. Compare those numbers to the money being cut for essential social services and it is easy to see what this administration's priorities are:
* Cut $57 million from the food stamp program. This will affect 300,000 working families.
* Cut $200 million from the low-income home energy assistance program. This will affect mostly families with elderly and disabled members. According to a recent energy study, inability to pay utility bills is a main cause of homelessness.
* Cut $361 million from the clean water state loan fund. This is the largest source of federal funding to upgrade old sewage systems to keep raw sewage out of rivers and lakes. Already there are questionable practices of sewage treatment in lower income areas across the nation due to extreme need for upgrades. To paraphrase an old saying, this stuff floats down river, folks.
* Cut $48 million from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program. At a time that gas prices are continually rising and we should be striving as a nation to become less addicted to Mid-East oil, why is this being cut? Not to mention the damage being done to our environment by fossil fuels and the push to drill in the pristine Arctic Wildlife Preservation area.
* Cut Upward Bound, Talent Search, and GEAR UP. These are programs that provide money to schools and organizations to help low- and moderate-
income students get to college. Upward Bound offers math, science, and foreign language instruction, among other things. Talent Search stresses counseling, mentoring and bringing dropouts back to school. GEAR UP encourages students to stick with school and graduate by partnering with and following groups of students from middle school through high school. The new budget would do away with these programs entirely at a time when America's children are falling further and further behind the rest of the world academically.
These are just a few of the many cuts to vital social programs in the proposed budget. Meanwhile, the President proposes to make permanent tax cuts that have failed to stimulate the economy as promised and give the majority of tax breaks to the wealthiest in our society, those who have no need of these programs about to be cut. How can we continue to be a nation of innovators if we pour all of our resources into the military complex and ignore our social needs? The measure of a great society is how well we take care of our most vulnerable members and if this budget is any indication, we are failing miserably.