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Less Is More, for the Poor

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2011-02-14-evictionenews.jpgOn Valentines Day, Monday February 14th, communities across the country joined together in a collective day of action called by National Alliance of HUD Tenants.

From Washington DC to Florida and from Maine to California, HUD tenants and foreclosure victims, homeless and poor people and everyone else with a heart held actions, press conferences, and community forums to demand that our federal representatives fully fund vital housing programs -- be they Section 8 housing, Public Housing, Rural Housing as well as the other vital poverty, homeless and health programs. WRAP helped to organize an action in San Francisco.

"HAVE A HEART SAVE OUR HOMES!"

We are acting now because the current federal budget is set to expire on March 4th. The new Republican leadership in Congress has rallied behind a proposal to immediately reduce federal spending levels back to the 2008 amount, with only military and Homeland Security programs excepted. As reported by the Washington Post, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told a conference of conservative activists last Friday, "Next week, we are going to cut more than $100 billion. And we're not going to stop there."

This reiterated an earlier statement issued by House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky) and run in the National Journal: "Never before has Congress undertaken a task of this magnitude,"..."The cuts in this CR will represent the largest reduction in discretionary spending in the history of our nation...Make no mistake, these cuts are not low-hanging fruit," Rogers said. "These cuts are real and will impact every District across the country." He then made the classic Republican leap of logic that less spending on education, health care and affordable housing somehow leads to helping "our economy grow and our businesses create jobs." As usual this last part is never truly justified with facts, just makes a great sound bite, repeated so often that it is rarely if ever challenged by the press.

To date, President Obama and the Democratic Leadership have not been responding with the righteous indignation these cuts call for. As a matter of fact, the President is releasing his own budget proposals that will do serious damage to critical housing and poverty programs.

He is proposing $1 Billion in cuts to Community Development Block Grants, a 5-year freeze on all domestic spending, and a smaller (yet still devastating) 5% reduction in HUD, as well as other cuts we haven't seen yet.

Ironically, our national political debate focuses on how much to cut from poor people's housing -- should it be 5% or 21%? -- not how much to add. Poor people are never mentioned in political discourse. This is particularly shameful at a time when HUD's own numbers show a 20% increase of households in dire need.

Low-income tenants have already suffered enough with the loss of more than 500,000 Public and Section 8 apartments in the past 15 years -- adding to growing homelessness among families, elderly and disabled people.

All of this is happening at a time when State and Local governments across the country are also cutting health care, welfare, education, and public sector pensions and jobs. This myriad of federal, state and local cuts across the country will absolutely mean thousands more people living (and dying) on our country's streets.

In just a couple of weeks, over 19 communities have put together today's actions and there are many others that helped plan for today and will be joining this budget battle as we move forward over the next weeks and months that this is sure to drag out.

As Herman Bonner of Chicago, NAHT Board President and a disabled Section 8 tenant says, "The Republicans' Tea Party' budget is a Valentine's Day Massacre on America's poor." We urge Congress to reject these cuts and recognize that every American has the right to a decent life and home."