September 19, 2005

cutting the poor

The Washington Post has an editorial on The Other America, 2005. As you'd probably guess, it's a statement about poverty in America as highlighted so vividly for us all by Hurricane Katrina. I am somewhat heartened that poverty has moved from the back burner. As Catholics, our faith is grounded in a preferential option for the poor. Jesus was pretty clear about that. But as a Country, the last remain last and the first first. At least now we've been confronted with that sad reality.

The editorial states that "the creation and expansion of government programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies and the earned-income tax credit have made the America of 2005 a far less harsh place for the poor than the America of 1964." This is true, but it is not enough if we still have the horrible face of very real poverty. But what concerns me even more is the constant effort to dismantle even these inadequate programs for the poor. When I hear on the news that the debate in Washington on how to pay for hurricane recovery is centering not even on raising new taxes but on delaying tax cuts (Democrats) or making even MORE cuts (Republicans) I lose heart.

Do they not realize that the existing tax cuts are already hurting the poor. More tax cuts will hurt them even more. Government spending (other than military) for the most part equals the safety net. Medicaid has already been severely cut. Other social programs too. If the real problem highlighted by the hurricane, as I believe it to be, is not disaster preparedness but American poverty, the best solution in my mind would be to restore these programs at the very least if not find the strength within us to expand them.

Instead we talk about further cuts. The cuts will not hurt the rich. The cuts will not be to our ever expanding military offensive stance across the globe. The cuts will cut even deeper into the lives of the poor. Not just in the gulf coast, but across this great nation of ours.

And what problem does that solve?