DESPERATELY SEEKING HOPE IN OUR NATION’S CAPITOL
Well, I visited Washington last week with Community Action Board members Alicia Karner, Lori Sywensky and Jeff Byrne. Hundreds of Community Action people from all over the country were there to fight back.
We are fighting a nasty streak in this country that has us acting like we have abandoned fundamental values that have defined America since its inception: “…liberty and justice for all;” “…to promote the general welfare;” “all [people] were created equal.” That nastiness was illustrated by the Republican House leadership when it one-upped a President whose own values seem to have become confused when he proposed a 50% cut in the network of Community Action agencies that fight poverty in communities throughout the nation. The House GOP proposal in HR 1 would have zeroed out the Community Services Block Grant on March 5, which would have required us to lay off 20 of our 120 employees the next day. It would also destabilize, if not destroy, the Community Action Lehigh Valley.
HR 1 was rejected by the Senate. A new Continuing Resolution was then passed, leaving Community Action’s CSBG untouched. But that expires in two weeks, putting us at risk once again.
Congressman Charlie Dent has long been a friend of Community Action. He organized a “Dear Colleague” letter on behalf of CSBG during the Bush Administration, among many other supportive actions. Charlie seems to remain a strong supporter and has offered new forms of support during this current threat.
Senator Bob Casey is also a supporter.
Senator Pat Toomey? Well, despite having one of the best Community Action Agencies in the country in the Congressional district he once represented, Senator Toomey has never voted in support of our work. Nobody expects that to change. But he’s receiving letters from constituents on our behalf anyway.
So, our national strategy is to support cutting our funding to 2008 levels. This is the broad goal Republicans have set. It would mean a cut of about 8%. While painful, and likely to cause reductions in service at a time when we are most needed, it sure is better than 50% or even being zeroed out.
Please keep the pressure on. Someday, maybe, just maybe, this country will embrace the notion that we are, indeed, one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.
GOVERNOR CORBETT PILES ON
The threats to the common good coming from our federal government are enormous. Don’t expect the state to absorb new responsibility for its own troubles.
Newly-elected governor Tom Corbett consistently campaigned against new tax revenue to balance the $4 billion deficit Pennsylvania projects come July 1 when a new fiscal year begins. He won’t even embrace a tax on the out-of-state gas drilling industry making massive amounts of money while raping the environment in the vast areas of Marcellus shale holding the largest natural gas reserves in the world.
So, here come cuts on top of cuts. A 32% reduction is proposed for the budget of the Department of Community and Economic Development which, as the name would indicate, is responsible for creating new opportunities, growing future tax base, attracting industry – all the things we need if we are going to survive the Great Recession. Helping families save their homes from foreclosure is no longer needed, according to his budget; the Human Services Development Fund, which helps counties deal with hurting people, is no longer needed. According to the budget, which defines our state’s priorities, education ain’t important neither [sic deliberately].
SO WHAT DOES THE WORLD LOOK LIKE IN THESE FOLKS’ EYES?
The American middle class’s wages are being gobbled up by rising prices, productivity gains that marginalize labor, jobs exported to exploit cheap foreign labor, unaffordable health care for which workers are assuming greater and greater share of the cost, rising costs of getting to work (don’t you hate putting gas in your car?), and the evaporation of so many pensions and other retirement savings.
The rich, lucky and crafty as they are, are getting tax cuts.
Then there are the poor. Screw ’em. Americans hate poor people.
And so I ask our captains of industry: who will buy your toasters, cars and houses?
And I ask our politicians: what happens to the folks who will never compete in this brave new world?
And I ask the leaders of our faith community: who will put money in the plate?
Most urgently, I ask every working class American: why do you turn on each other?
FOLKS, ENOUGH REALLY IS ENOUGH
I’m not asking you to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” But, friends, this can only lead to an ugly world. Aren’t we all better off when we’re all better off?
Stand up. Speak out. We really are all in this together.