The Guardian 26 October, 2005

"No cuts in food, Medicaid"

Tim Wheeler

WASHINGTON: Constituents flooded Capitol Hill with angry messages last week protesting a House budget resolution that would slash food stamps, Medicaid and other human needs programs by $50 billion while handing the rich another $70 billion in tax giveaways.

Rich Fiesta, political action director of the AFL-CIO-affiliated Alliance for Retired Americans, told the People’s Weekly World his organisation joined in a "national call-in" to lawmakers demanding they vote down the budget cuts. "The largest group receiving Medicaid is senior citizens in nursing homes. Obviously, the cuts will affect them directly. Typically, they are older, frail, single women. The victims of these cuts will be those who need these programs the most."

Even some Republicans are nervous, Fiesta said. "They are going to have to go back home with an election coming and look their constituents in the eye and try to justify voting for those cuts."

Debbie Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN), said, "Many thousands have sent e-mails and letters or phone calls. The lawmakers are getting the word that these cuts are unacceptable, especially in the wake of the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Katrina."

CHN drafted a letter to members of Congress signed by 750 organisations representing tens of millions urging the lawmakers to vote down the plan and instead increase funding to meet the crisis of poverty, hunger, homelessness and unemployment.

The American Friends Service Committee, the AFL-CIO and provided toll-free numbers for a "national call-in" to Capitol Hill offices on October 17-20 against the resolution, which may be voted on as early as October 19.

The drive for the huge cuts erupted after Tom DeLay, indicted for money laundering, was forced to step down as house majority leader. The Republican Study Committee led by Representatives Jeff Flake and Mike Pence stepped in, spouting rhetoric on the surging federal deficits. Enraged that Congress approved funds to rebuild the Gulf Coast, they insist they must be offset by $500 billion in cuts elsewhere.

Scott Lynch, spokesperson for Peace Action, said, "The budget we have is the result of the budget Bush adopted after 9/11. Bush has stated repeatedly that cuts to the Pentagon and Homeland Security are unacceptable and therefore everything else has to be cut."

The GOP [Republican] lawmakers are also pushing ahead with President George W Bush’s $70 billion in tax cuts for the rich.

"Do the maths", Weinstein told the World. "Cut human needs programs by $50 billion and cut taxes by $70 billion and you come up with a deficit worse than when they began."

She added, "Asking poor people to pay for the extraordinary, necessary recovery efforts on the Gulf Coast through cuts in their food stamps and Medicaid is an outrage. It takes real gall to continue pressing for more and more tax cuts so that millionaires who average $100,000 in tax cuts can get $120,000. It’s crazy!"

So crazy, she said, that splits are developing among Republicans. "On the House side, many moderate Republicans are alarmed that these extremists are setting the agenda, and they are being asked to cast votes for cuts in health care and food, especially after the Gulf Coast disasters."

Weinstein praised the coalition fighting the cuts, which includes a wide array of labour, religious, women’s and child advocacy groups. "It is much broader than we have had before and we are thrilled to be a part of it."

"This is only the beginning", Weinstein said. "We need to continue to be in touch with members of Congress so they understand how dangerous these cuts are to low-income programs and the people they serve. The next month is a critical period where there is a real chance that these cuts can be defeated."

The CHN letter praises the charitable giving after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "While critical to people’s needs", the letter states, "it cannot substitute for the necessary role of government to help people meet their basic needs and to help families and communities rebuild their lives … to secure the basics: jobs, income when work is not available, health care, food, education, child care and housing."

People’s Weekly World, abridged, for original text visit

Back to index page