Sweeping cuts in welfare, education and housing programmes for the poor were the centrepiece of austerity budget proposals announced by George Bush yesterday to meet his campaign pledge of halving the US budget deficit in his second term.
In a package hailed by the White House as the toughest since the days of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, only defence and homeland security were spared from the fiscal squeeze.
Democrats attacked the cuts in spending on welfare, housing, education and the environment and, despite Republican control of the Senate and the House of representatives, the proposals are expected to have a tough passage through Congress. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said the "cuts in veterans' programmes, healthcare and education reflect the wrong priorities".
They are the wrong priorities indeed. Included in the proposed cuts is the elimination of subsidies for Amtrak which will effectively destroy passenger train service in the U.S. With the devastatingly serious realities of global climate change observed by scientists now frantically sounding the alarm, we need to strengthen our public transportation service - not undercut it thereby increasing automobile use.
Also being cut is aid to veterans. This is simply beyond disgraceful. As it is, homeless vets often have to wait years for aid as is reported on in a Chicago Sun-Times article by Cheryl Reed.
Mental health experts are predicting that as many as one-third of all Iraqi veterans will suffer from PTSD, a disabling disorder characterized by flashbacks and war nightmares. A similar percentage of Vietnam veterans have been diagnosed with the disorder -- although it took decades for the government to recognize, treat and compensate those veterans.
Still, the VA officially maintains there's no connection between military combat and homelessness. But people who work with veterans believe otherwise.
"Many people will tell you that military service is not a significant contributing factor to homelessness. But it clearly is a factor," said Pete Dougherty, national director of the VA's homeless veterans programs. "There are more veterans who have shown up in the ranks of the homeless than their average age cohort."
I want to print out the Sun-Times article and put it on the windshield of every SUV (it usually is an SUV) with a "Support our troops" magnet on the back. Those magnets are really code for "Agree with our president" and yet our president is being unspeakably callous toward our returning troops who are obviously expendable in his view. But the wealthy do have their tax cuts don't they? We have our priorities in the country, after all.