A squeeze on the poor

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2001

The following editorial appeared in today's Washington Post:

President Bush's budget would put more pressure on spending, including spending for the poor, than some of the rhetoric in which it was wrapped suggested. The pressure comes from the effort to make room for the president's tax cut, which would heavily benefit the better-off. The budget thus raises the prospect not merely of mainly benefiting those already at the top of the income heap but also of doing so directly at the poor's expense.

In the long run, the tax cut would squeeze all spending programs, including the major entitlements, Social Security and Medicare. In the short run, however, most of the pressure would be applied to domestic programs subject to the annual appropriations process. This catch-all category - everything from the highways to Head Start - makes up about a sixth of the budget. ....

A capital fund meant to keep the public housing stock from deteriorating would be cut by $700 million, or nearly a fourth, next year. The administration says unspent balances from prior years can make up the difference. But that's misleading; there are always such balances in the pipeline because it takes several years to complete major modernization projects...

The budget likewise fails to renew a program of supplemental welfare grants to some 17 low-benefit states, including the president's home state of Texas. The grants were enacted as part of welfare reform in 1996 on the theory that, without them, many welfare families would ... lack the support to make a successful transition from welfare to work.

Even the increase in education would be less than it was made to sound - not the 11 percent the budget outline touted, but about 3 percent after subtracting an accounting anomaly and inflation. The tax cuts the president proposes are excessive. They would impinge even on the spending programs he claims to favor, much less those that he does not.

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