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Malkia A. Cyril Headshot

Moral Budgets: Wedging Black Women's Bodies Part 1

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The 2012 budget is a a painful story. Where it cuts and what it spends tells the story of how deep misogyny runs in the United States.

Despite high rates of unemployment, staggering rates of black poverty, and an insane federal deficit, House Republicans voted 240-185 last week to undermine the reproductive freedom of women by blocking federal aid to Planned Parenthood. Though recent polls indicate the vast majority in the U.S. prioritized unemployment and jobs as the top issues of the day, Republicans are claiming this vote as the will of the American people.

Meanwhile, two months after signing tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, President Obama submitted a $3.7 trillion budget proposal on Monday February 12 to Congress with more than $60 billion in cuts that eliminate subsidies and grants for research and development, trim government sponsored scholarships, slash low-income housing and homeless programs, and shrink the budget for the Women, Infants, & Children nutritional program, while leaving the largest areas of overspending -defense, social security, and medicare- untouched.

The President's office claims this budget will decrease the deficit by $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years. According to an article in The Huffington Post, the President's budget was expected to mostly target "non-defense discretionary spending," which makes up less than one-quarter of the overall budget- making balancing the budget with this math nearly impossible. President Obama's economic policies didn't create the deficit- but whether he chooses to allow Bush-era economic policies and culture wars to continue may well make him responsible for our future.

What do the President's budget and the House's vote against Planned Parenthood have in common? They both have dire consequences for the health and safety of America's poorest women and children.

It's important to understand the consequences of the proposed 2012 budget on our lives. As Tavis Smiley said on a recent episode of Realtime with Bill Maher, "budgets are moral documents". My friend and colleague Makani Themba-Nixon of the Praxis Project taught me that budgets are also narratives, they tell a story about who and what is valued or de-prioritized.

Based on the budgetary decisions of the President's office and the House -- women and children seem to be low priorities for this Administration and Congress. But these aren't just any women and children getting the short end of the stick. The House and the President seem to agree that they can balance the budget on the backs of women and children who are poor, of color, rural, wireless, and young. While the President that I voted and wept for is debilitating programs for the most vulnerable Americans instead of shrinking the defense budget, it is the dynamics of racism and the rhetoric of spending to curb human suffering as "waste", that provides the rationale for this funny social math. And guess who is ready at the helm in defense of black women and communities with a compelling story to tell?

Check out Part 2 of this column and find out.