Who Stands for Children and the Aged?

04/14/2011 04:46 pm ET | Updated Jun 14, 2011

Tea Party Republicans say "CUT! CUT! CUT!" the government health, education, welfare, and job programs millions of working and poor Americans depend on for survival. They also want to say "CUT! CUT! CUT!" the tax bill of the rich and well connected. I don't know how much more they can cut. The New York Times recently reported that GE pays no U.S. taxes at all on worldwide profits of $14.2 billion.

Barack Obama, Andrew Cuomo, and Michael Bloomberg -- president of the United States, governor of New York, and mayor of New York City -- were elected because voters thought they represented liberal ideals, concern for ordinary people, and the idea that active government could actually solve social problems. Boy, were we wrong! In the last few weeks, each of them has each embraced the "CUT! CUT! CUT!" mantra of the political right. They claim to be smarter than their opponents and want to make the devastating cuts to social programs with a scalpel rather than a machete. But whether an assailant uses a scalpel or a machete, victims are going to bleed.

Eleven House Democrats who represent New York City voted against the recent federal budget agreement negotiated by Obama and legislative leaders. They protested against unacceptable cuts to hundreds of local programs including grants for homeless shelters, crime victims, seniors, and youth. Representative Carolyn Maloney called the proposed cuts "a war against women, children, seniors, Medicare, the safety net." Representative Rangel warned, "The $38 billion is nothing compared to the nightmare the Republicans are preparing."

However, New York's Senators, both Democrats, thought the cuts were okay. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on Americans to "tighten our belts" and Senator Charles Schumer praised the budget-cutting agreeement. Of course, Gillibrand's husband is a venture capitalist and her family is wealthy and Schumer, who represents powerful Wall Street and banking interests, is also doing quite well. Both saved a lot of money with the extension of the millionaire's tax cut.

Some of the people hardest hit by the proposed cuts have started to fight back against the devastating cuts, but they are going to need much more help and to organize many more people if they are going to have an impact.

On Saturday, April 9, thousands of New Yorkers marched from Times Square in midtown Manhattan to Foley Square near City Hall. They protested against large-scale public sector job cuts and loss of public employee health and pension benefits in the face of looming state budget cuts. As many as 75,000 public sector jobs, including thousands of teachers, are slated to be eliminated in New York State.

On Wednesday April 13, nearly 1,000 parents, teachers, and children rallied at New York's City Hall Park protesting against budget cuts that will be the biggest blow to child care in this city since the 1970s. If the cuts go through, 17,000 families will lose childcare and many others will be priced out of the system because of raised fees. Preschool children, the most vulnerable members of our society, will be thrown out of their schools -- with a scalpel rather than a machete.

The next day, a coalition of aging service advocates lead by mainstream organizations such as the Council of Senior Centers and Services (CSCS), Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), United Neighborhood House (UNH), CityMeals on Wheels, the Human Services Council, and UJA-Federation gathered at City Hall to lobby for help for people on the other end of the age spectrum, the elderly. Bloomberg's proposed budget would use a scalpel to eliminate $6.6 million in case management services for the elderly.

Both children and the elderly use the public library system and both groups will be hurt when the scalpel cuts twenty-two percent in library funding. As many as forty libraries will be closed and others will be forced to scale back hours and reduce book acquisitions. Brooklyn, where I live, will be hit the hardest, losing 16 branch libraries.

There is no such thing as a smarter budget cut. Scalpels make people bleed just like machetes.