Congressman Says Blacks are Focus of GOP Cutbacks: 'Slash and Burn'. Midyear Rescissions Reek of Election Year Politics
by Malik Shabazz
WASHINGTON, DC -- Amid much fanfare and flagwaving, House Republicans, in line with their "Contract With America," proposed severe cutbacks in government spending, reorganized welfare and school lunch, and pulled back funding for education, the homeless and disabled, during a midyear rescission frenzy.
"The [Republican] objective," according to Rep. Major Owens (D-NY), "is to finance the tax break, which a large part of goes to people who are very well off, and to finance an increase in defense...so to finance the place where we should be making cuts, they're willing to take food out of the mouths of hungry children."
Among those programs seeing their allocated funding pulled back is Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which lost $7.2 billion in funds approved for such programs as public and low-income housing, block grants, lead-paint removal and rent subsidies. According to HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, these midyear rescissions have eliminated this year's Section Eight rental vouchers, and could lead to the eviction of as many as 27,000 lowincome individuals.
In education, proposed GOP cuts would eliminate 84 programs and slash $1.7 billion that was earmarked for the poor and disadvantaged, such as education for the homeless, safe schools projects, bilingual education, higher education matching fund grants, vocational training and many literacy programs. Republicans also targeted for elimination the State Supplemental Incentive Grants (SSIG), which provides states with marketing funds for higher education. And if eliminated, according to one expert, may leave many students unable to fund college.
"The difficulty," noted Dave Merkowitz, spokesman for the American Council on Education (ACE), "is that in the last couple of years, we've also seen significant cuts by a number of states in student aid...removal of the federal incentives could provide some indirect encouragement to some of those states to cut even more."
'Contract' on Poor People?
As the GOP attempts to implement its contract, many are beginning to question whether its terms are designed to make government more efficient or simply an assault against the poor, since the majority of rescissions, program eliminations and cuts will affect the poor.
According to an analysis of the proposed cuts by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than 63 percent of the rescissions affect poor people. Overall, "it's highly disproportionate," says Pauline Abernathy, a budget policy analyst. "Discretionary programs for the low income and poor were hit 12 times harder than other discretionary programs.... They're proposing to cancel $11 billion in programs for low-income people out of a total of $19 billion [in cuts]...and if you look at the latest package of rescissions, they are all in discretionary programs...and that is to finance disaster relief in California and other states and to finance the tax cut they [Republicans] are proposing."
The Democratic opposition, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, says these "mean-spirited" cuts are a subtle attempt by Republicans to impose a legislative mandate that will win the White House in 1996 by "playing the race card."
"They're acting as if they have a mandate, we don't think they have a mandate," said Rep. Owens. "If you look at the vote, less than 40 percent of the people came out to vote [in the November election]...they got a little more than half that. They are moving full speed ahead with sort of a 100-day blitzkrieg and are going to present everybody with quite a challenge. At the end of 100 days they are going to have passed most of the legislation that they said they would pass. It's going to be up to us to fight to get the Senate to block part of it, [and] up to us to try to get the president to veto most of it. …