Sen. Edward M. Kennedy described perfectly the federal budget that was submitted by President Bush and approved by Congress on a party-line vote last week:
“This budget says the lives of poor mothers and poor children are not that important after all. Under this budget, tax breaks for the rich are more important than life itself.”
When Bush claims to uphold “family values” and “the culture of life,” he’s not telling the whole truth. Bush supports the values of families who live in gated communities and send kids to expensive private schools and checks to the Republican National Committee. As for “the culture of life,” that means the government breaking in on wombs and families to defend fetuses and Terri Schiavos. Bush’s “life” culture does not cover the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians — men, women and children — killed in the American invasion and occupation of their country. Nor does it apply to American servicemen and women, obviously, or Bush would be making greater efforts to bring them home. His is a culture of life except for those who are expendable.
Bush’s budget would add another $106 billion in tax breaks for his rich friends and contributors, driving up deficits, while cutting programs for the non-rich. Medicaid, which provides health care to needy elderly, children and people with disabilities, would get a $10 billion cut. Medicaid recipients are unable to kick in to election campaigns. In lieu of donations, Bush has asked that they die quietly.
The Medicaid cut will hit Arkansas especially hard, because the state has a high rate of federal contribution to state contribution — roughly $3 of federal money for every $1 of state money. To be precise, the federal match in Arkansas is 74.75 percent. Only Mississippi receives a higher federal match — 77.08 percent. Eleven states receive the lowest possible match — 50 percent, or $1 of federal money for each $1 of state money.
Food stamps and agriculture programs would be cut $3 billion. According to the Arkansas Hunger Coalition, as many as 12,000 of the 370,000 Arkansans receiving food stamps could be eliminated from the program. Over 95 percent of food stamp benefits go to households with incomes below the federal poverty level. More than half of all food stamp recipients are children; another quarter are elderly or disabled. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report last November named Arkansas as the state with the highest rate of hunger.
Other domestic programs — including K-12 education, housing, veterans health care and environmental protection — would be cut by $23 billion in 2006. The cut would grow to $59 billion in 2010.
To their credit, both of Arkansas’s senators and three of the state’s four representatives voted against Bush’s budget. Rep. John Boozman once again put partisanship ahead of people.