State of the Union

by Angelo Anderson

Like many Americans, I watched the President’s State of the Union Address. I felt it was necessary to see what, if any changes, might be coming from the federal level that might have a large effect on the homeless population of our nation. I listened to the entire speech and here is what the President had to say.

The President delivered what amounted to political bullshit. He proposed billions of dollars in new spending on social programs that have proved popular with the public, to be paid for through closing unspecified loopholes, and billions of dollars in tobacco taxes that may never be enacted.

If the economy soars and generates surplus revenue beyond what is needed to balance the budget and pay for the president’s spending priorities, Mr. Clinton hopes to use the excess money to begin to ensure the future of Social Security.

Two years after he declared the end of the era of big government, Mr. Clinton painted a picture of federal activism, from subsidies for the care of babies to expansion of the health care program for the elderly. He presented a democratic plan to distribute the spoils of a strong economy to school teachers, working parents, laid-off workers and Medicare recipients. Here’s what he proposed:

• Submit a balanced budget for 1999 (three years earlier than his agreement with Congress requires).

• A White House conference to devise ways to put Social Security on a sound footing.

• Spending $7.3 billion to hire 100,000 more teachers.

• Raise the minimum wage (now $5.15) but he did not say by how much.

• $21.7 billion for child care initiative, doubling the number of kids eligible for subsidies.

• Tax credits to pay interest on nearly $22 billion in bonds to build and renovate public schools.

• Let Americans as young as 55 buy into the Medicare system.

• Prevent Iraq from using weapons of mass destruction.

• $18 billion to the International Monetary Fund to aide Asian economics.

• $1 billion to pay United States’ debts to the United Nations.

• Congressional support for his decision to keep American troops in Bosnia.

• Urged the Senate to ratify a treaty expanding NATO.

All this without smoke, mirrors, hidden wires, or a crystal ball. One hell of a magic act if you ask me. Someone forgot to mention the millions of people who will become homeless because of the sweeping welfare changes. Someone forgot to talk about the thousands who will be put on the streets as government subsidized housing comes under the knife. Someone forgot to mention the thousands who will be laid off as big companies reduce their work forces in an effort to get larger profits. And someone forgot to mention that unless jobs that pay more than minimum wage become available, more and more Americans will find themselves living in poverty.

I need not tell you how the politics are of our President, -- of all Presidents for that matter, and his part-time policy makers. The strength and security of this country can not depend on the ebb and flow of public opinion, pollsters, and populists. No, it ain’t about that. No, the moving forward of a nation must take priority over this and we must not forget that the backbone of our country was built on the marrow and fortitude of those left out.

Unfortunately, we seem to have fallen prey to the crusader of good feelings, to the illusion of safety so readily and naively embraced by the insipid believers in the so-called family of man. We are becoming a population of followers. (As Voltaire once said, "This mania of maintaining that everything is well when we are wretched.")

But we, of all people, who work on the front line to stem the rise of homelessness know differently. We know all is not well.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25