Cities Falling Victim to Administration’s War

Commentary by Brian Davis

   The Bush Administration’s six-year-old war on American Cities continues with the release of the 2007 Federal Budget.  The current administration has done everything in its power to weaken cities politically and starve them by cutting finances.  They have made the yearly budget a nightmare scenario by attacking different programs each year.  So far, the Administration has succeeded in destroying one American city in New Orleans, but they are slowly eroding the stability of all American cities through the power of the budget.

   The Bush Administration has attempted to pay for the War and various tax breaks on the backs of largely Democratic, minority residents of American Cities.  They have proposed dramatic cuts to the housing voucher program, they have not built a single non-elderly unit of affordable housing, and have continuously starved public housing.  They have taken money from the community policing initiative to transfer to “Homeland Security.”  The Bush Administration has set goals for schools, but never provided funding to achieve these goals, which just leaves parents and teachers with unreasonable expectations and no resources.  Food Stamps are harder to obtain, and money for emergency food has stagnated or gone down in the past five years despite increasing need.

   This current administration has let environmental regulations go under-enforced.  They have gutted the Civil Rights arm of the U.S. Justice Department, and they can’t even provide the level of help in finding our missing children as they did in the past.  This administration has reduced the ability for poor people to have access to health care, and has not provided enough funding to improve our ability to vote in this democracy.  Other health issues including AIDS, Mental Health, Disability assistance, and Drug treatment have also suffered over the last five years. So in every measure of involvement with the residents of our American cities including security, health care, civil rights, education, housing, and even food, the current administration has failed.

   The Community Development Block Grant program is the latest skirmish in the war on the cities.  The Bush Administration has proposed a 25% cut to this program that cities use for sidewalks, housing, streetlights, community centers, police mini-stations, and shelters.  There is no possible way that this will make it through the Congress in an election year, but it is still a slap in the face for Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Chicago. 

   What would we do if there was an accident at a chemical plant in the Flats and we had to evacuate?  How many residents of American cities will have to die in an avian flu outbreak because we are not prepared?  How many more homeless memorial days will each of our cities have to observe because of the lack of political will to help our cities end homelessness?  How many cities are closing recreation centers or youth programs or schools and wondering why delinquency is on the rise?  How many more children will be unable to learn because in many cities our only test for lead poisoning is the brains of 5-year-old children? 

   Stephen Colbert from The Colbert Report expresses this in a much better way than we ever could:

    “To all of you…Keep up the good work. Okay, yes.  You always keep up the good work despite the hardships facing the American work force.  You know yesterday, the Labor Department announced that last year (2005) wages and benefits paid to civilian employees rose by the smallest amount in nine years, which brings us to tonight’s Word—‘You’re Welcome.’ 

   You American workers haven’t seen an increase in real wages since the 1970s [Happy Days are Here Again].  You are working longer hours for the same pay.  Sometimes two jobs with no benefits.  But are you rioting? [Dilbert is a Riot]. No, you are voting for Republican candidates who give people like me tax cuts.  And you know what?  I think that’s your way of saying, ‘Thank you.’ [You Shouldn’t Have] Now, in reality, we should be thanking you [But We Aren’t]

   You know that this is the Super Bowl weekend…Super Bowl Sunday [Nacho Madness].  You know, you the working man are our country’s offensive line. You get pushed down there into the mud [Mud=s#!t]. While their star player, corporations like Exxon, are racking up the points—posting the highest quarterly profits in U.S. history [Touchdown!].  And you, you the mighty cogs hear about it on the radio driving to a job that doesn’t pay for the gasoline Exxon sells you [But Free Cookie Bouquets].  Or give you medical coverage for the health complications you get breathing the gas and those gas fumes [Super Premium Lung].

   In every other Western Country mobs have demanded national health care.  Jibber jabbering about how my child should be able to go to a doctor [Good News, Kids, No Needles!].  But, you, you know money is needed to fix the country [of Iraq].   That’s right!  That’s right bullet.  Thanks to a trillion dollars of your money, Iraqis will have the same privileges that you enjoy [An Elected Theocracy].  And when you hear all that falderal about disappearing pensions and 401-k debacles, you stay focused on the things that affect you most…Gay Marriage [It’s Coming Scotts Bluff, Nebraska].  You know what?  I have written a poem to celebrate your sacrifice.  Called

 ‘Poem for the American Worker.’

Arise [Get Up]

Ye, sinewy titan sof rivet-strewn factory floor [Workers]

Arise, and accept your present circumstances.

Ye whose bulking backs bear the ballast of the American Dream. [You Work Hard]

Unite, unite until it is no longer convenient.

Raise thy fists to the sky and then lower it. 

Then raise it again in a smooth continuous motion [You Guess is as Good as Mine].

And shake loose thy chains [Free Yourself]

But only if they workest in a chain factory, which you probably don’t [Chain Making Now Mostly in China].

For ye brothers, only together can we maintain or increase productivity...

     And it goes on from there for twelve more quatrains.  Don’t applaud me.  It’s for the workers. 

   The point is that I am here to tell you that your sacrifice will be rewarded [With more Sacrifice]. Because if you keep sacrificing your benefits long enough and your wages get low enough, we will get those jobs back from China.  And let me be the first to say, ‘You’re welcome.’ [You’re Welcome].  And that is ‘The Word.’

 “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”  Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.