Diana Nelson Jones' Walkabout: Trump's budget cuts are an attack on humanity
March 20, 2017 12:00 AM
Andrew Harnik/Associated Press
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with his Cabinet in the White House on March 13.
By Diana Nelson Jones / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A 13 percent budget cut to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would be unconscionable, but so much that’s trending out of Washington these days is.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition sounds a dire warning, asking us to remember the resulting homelessness from President Ronald Reagan’s cuts 35 years ago, with many thousands of people sleeping on subway grates, under bridges, in parks, in cars.
Not all of them became homeless because Mr. Reagan slashed the budget. Some were homeless because they lost jobs, and some of those were industrial jobs. The wheel of cause and effect delivers opportunity far less often than it rolls over people.
In a recent statement, Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, writes that years after Mr. Reagan’s cuts “… a major infusion of resources was needed for homeless shelters and services. President [Donald] Trump seems eager to follow in Mr. Reagan’s footsteps, repeating his mistakes … .”
Further anticipated cuts to HUD would reduce support for affordable housing, which is already at crisis levels nationally, and for public housing. Cuts could eliminate community development block grants altogether. The coalition estimates that cuts of this magnitude would mean the loss of almost 124,000 jobs.
The “thinking” is to take responsibility off the back of the federal government and put it on the backs of the states. Responsibility without the means to be responsible? States don’t even have enough money to properly maintain state parks.
Housing advocates toiled heroically to repair Mr. Reagan’s damage, and yet homelessness remains a stubborn social ill. But people are no longer strewn over the streets in most cities.
Wait for it, though, if this administration is not checked and balanced.
“More than 200,000 seniors, families, and people with disabilities will be at immediate risk of evictions and homelessness, and local communities will be starved of the funding they need to build and repair affordable homes and revitalize distressed communities,” Ms. Yentel writes.
For more than 30 years, colleagues at various newspapers and I have interviewed experts in the field, reporting about the heavy toll homelessness takes, not just on people and their potential. It takes a toll on the taxpayer, who pays for the extra policing, emergency room visits and addiction intervention. It is much less expensive to house people and take case management to them.
Of course, with cuts to social service agencies, case management suffers, which makes the clients they serve vulnerable again, and the effect of this escalates and keeps getting more expensive as it escalates, like a snowball rolling downhill, going faster and getting bigger.
When will our “leaders” learn? When they slash budgets, presumably to be fiscally responsible, the damage they cause will take much more of our future tax dollars to repair. That’s not fiscally responsible. Sad!
I am trying to imagine an America with draconian cuts to education, housing and community development, the arts and humanities, environmental protections and research.
The fallacy of thinking you can run the country like a business — if that is even really the intention -— is that we, the people, are the stockholders. People like people. Businesses like profit, but the most long-lasting businesses have long-term vision. Almost all politicians have no vision. Most of them raise private money 24/7 to keep a job that benefits them for life.
These cuts are supposedly proposed to further fatten our defense and homeland security budgets. Terrorism is an easy scare tactic — scare tactics being necessary for a would-be autocrat, whether the defense and national security budgets need to be fattened or not. Maybe they do. That’s the problem. Most of us don’t have access to that kind of intelligence. (Recommended reading: “How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything” by Rosa Brooks.)
The 9/11 attacks and attacks before and since around the world make security a concern, always. Yet, I feel like a villager in the children’s story “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” When the boy’s cry really means “wolf!” I doubt I will believe him.
What can be believed are real numbers and the effects that slashing has on real people.
If the standards for humanity, well-being, generosity and natural beauty — hallmarks of America’s appeal for generations — are attacked, America will become a country that’s not worth defending.
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