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Maureen Lane

Gaming the Wildlife: the art of misdirection

According to the the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Congressional leaders are trying to make the public believe their vote last week to cut heating help for low-income families (LIHEAP Funds) was a necessary result of the defeat of a proposal to drill for oil on the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Are politicians trying to punish poor and low-income families for the legislative defeat of one of Bush's pet projects?
Will the public be fooled into blaming environmentalists for their hardships?

There is a relationship between drilling and going cold this winter- it is one the Republican leadership invented when they snuck cuts in heating aid into this bill. They attached it to particular legislation to punish legislators of conscience for vetoing the Artic drilling. They would like the public to think that oil from ANWR would've reduce their heating costs. Many experts have shown that it wouldn't have.

In a release titled "Congressional Leaders Misrepresent Why Energy Assistance Funds Were Stripped in Senate" the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities states,

"Several Republican leaders yesterday made statements that incorrectly claimed the removal of the ANWR provision necessitated the removal of the $2 billion in LIHEAP funds... a spokesman for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), the chair of the Senate Republican Conference, told the newspaper that "Democrats stripped out the $2 billion in Low- income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) money because it would have been funded by revenues from oil drilling in ANWR." The claim that the $2 billion in funding for this winter would have been financed by revenues from oil drilling is false."

In truth there is no causal relationship between the Artic drilling and the cost of energy. Congress did not have to cut heating aid and must restore the funds.

Santorum isn't the only politician trying to game this story so that Republicans going to their home disitricts don't take "heat" for bad polciy moves. Senators Grassley and Gregg issued misleading statements as well.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) notes that the cut to LIHEAP comes right after the adminstration turned down requests by the states for an increase in food stamps. NY was one of the states turned down. So, New Yorkers take a double hit with high heating costs and less food stamps. New Yorkers pride ourselves on not being fooled easily so I don't think they'll blame wildlife for policies that leave them in the cold.

Over this recess, the NY Congressional delegation needs to make clear that first and foremost they support New Yorkers' well being over partisan concerns. The budget bill won't be settled till the New Year. But it is not too late for legislators to re-examine the budget bill and reconcile it in a way that supports our priorities and values. Politics aside, we need to be united as a state and as a nation to keep all people warm and full this winter.

Maureen Lane: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 6:16 AM, Dec 28, 2005 in ANRW | Cities | Democracy | Federal Budget | Fiscal Responsibility | Middle-class squeeze | Santorum | Welfare | public services
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