Friday, September 23, 2005

HOUSE REPUBLICANS came up with a plan to pay for hurricane relief. They call it Operation Offset. I call it Operation Offing America, because it takes most of the cuts from domestic programs that help the neediest and most vulnerable among us. Other liberal bloggers have noted that Medicare and Medicaid will take the lion's share of the hit from Operation Offing. But the Republican Study Committee's proposals will cut or eliminate funding for many other essential programs; for example:

  • Subsidized federal loans for graduate students would be eliminated.
  • Federal grants to states to fund programs for safe and drug-free schools would be eliminated.
  • Funding for the teen portion of the Title X family planning program would be eliminated.
  • The Legal Services Corporation, which funds legal services for the poor, would be eliminated.
  • The Centers for Disease Control would have its federal funding cut by $25 billion over 10 years.
  • Funding for community health centers would be frozen at present levels.

Operation Offing will not spare foreign aid programs, either.

  • U.S. funding for UN peacekeeping operations would be frozen.
  • U.S. funding for the Global AIDS Initiative would be frozen.
  • Funding for local groups and community organizations in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa that promote entrepreneurship and help poor people start their own businesses would be frozen.
  • Peace Corps funding would be frozen.
  • Funding for the International Development Association, which provides grants and no-interest loans to the world's poorest nations, would be frozen.

There are many more proposed cuts -- too many to list here -- in education spending, environmental protection spending, urban infrastructure spending, and on and on.

All of the above could be viewed as vital parts of the war on terror, insofar as they address the issues of poverty, unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, and isolation that feed into terrorism. Yet, the only component of the war on terror that would not lose one penny of its funding is the Pentagon. Defense spending (with "defense" being defined in the traditional way, as bombs, guns, and soldiers) is completely excluded from federal budget cuts.

What else can one conclude but that the United States, as it is currently governed, does not believe in the connection between human need and despair, and political violence. What else can one conclude but that the only human institution the United States truly believes in is war. Violence and force really are the only things this administration understands.

So the future lies with those of us who can imagine and devise ways to fund natural disaster relief without taking that money from other human needs relief programs. One proposal is at Think Progress.

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