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Maureen Lane

Cynical Policy Agenda Passed in the Dark of Night

As reported by Amy Traub in the DMIblog and in the Washington Post, the budget reconciliation bill passed last Friday by two votes. The budget had dishonorably tucked into it language with wrongheaded changes to TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families).

The bill that passed was a budget bill cutting government programs to people who need income supports. In the light of day on Thursday, the bill could not pass. Under the cloak of darkness, I guess, dishonor was easier to stomach. The bill's passing is a dishonor to the rapidly growing number of poor in America and to the promise of America, where people can rise above the circumstances of their birth.

The National Governor's Association last month warned Congress against "achieving savings to the federal government".. by the inclusion of "substantive reductions to some of the most important state-federal programs that service low-income families." This summer's census data showed that poverty is growing, nationally. Here in New York it is growing alarmingly. For example, the national child poverty rate is 17.8% and in NYC it is over 30%.

Passing budgets that cut services for families or, for example, hold the possibility that poor families will have to pay even small amounts for medical assistance is beyond the pale. Have we learned nothing from Katrina? Katrina did not make the South's needy families poor, the storm simply brought the poor's plight to light.

The Center for Budget and Priorities reports Congressional Budget Office estimations that 220,000 people a month would lose food stamps and 330,330 children would lose childcare over the next four years. In addition, the budget bill has TANF changes that increase work hours to 40. The hours will serve to strangle the life out of families working hard to move from the crisis and poverty they are now experiencing. How can they work more hours with less childcare available? Do they leave children home alone? Do children magically disappear while their parents are away at work? Congress's actions are deliberate policy to harm the needy and those on the borderline.

The national debate on domestic policy demands we honor the reality of the lives of people in need not tuck devestating consequences into bills that reflect our belief that poverty is a family's own fault.

Maureen Lane: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 8:22 AM, Nov 21, 2005 in Welfare
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