As Democrats and Republicans wrangle over fiscal austerity and the shape of the 2012 federal budget, the White House is targeting programs in the $4 trillion budget that benefit low-income Americans.Howie P.S.: Here's another highlight from the article:
It's a sop to moderates and conservatives, and it's likely to infuriate voters who put President Barack Obama in the White House.
In the past week, the Obama administration has signaled that it will propose significant cuts to community service block grants and an energy assistance program that helps poor people stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Community service block grants, which fund community organizers in poor neighborhoods, are also facing cuts. During the 2008 campaign, Obama emphasized that his own resume included a stint as a community organizer. White House budget director Jacob Lew said in a New York Times op-ed Sunday that Obama would propose cleaving block-grant allocations to $350 million from $700 million.
"These are grassroots groups working in poor communities, dedicated to empowering those living there and helping them with some of life's basic necessities," Lew wrote. "These are the kinds of programs that President Obama worked with when he was a community organizer, so this cut is not easy for him."
David Bradley, director of the National Community Action Foundation, that works with Congress and local governments on behalf of programs for low-income people, said he was surprised that the president, a former community organizer, would go after programs that represent such a tiny part of the massive federal budget.
"The question is why? Why pick on this program? It makes a statement, particularly when you're able to say, 'Here's a program I really care about,'" Bradley said. "Once the Obama administration throws a poverty program in the water, it starts a feeding frenzy."
Bradley said the the White House has thrown chum into the waters swirling around the budget-cut debate. He said the Obama administration's move simply emboldened Republicans to propose even deeper cuts to the same programs. MORE...
With mounting evidence that the White House is willing to sacrifice low-income assistance as it jockeys for position in budget and election battles, it may be hard this time around to convince congressional Democrats to support the proposed block grant or LIHEAP cuts. The 11 Democratic members of Congress from Massachusetts sent Obama a letter on Monday opposing cuts to the block grants.
And one prominent Democrat has already voiced his displeasure with the LIHEAP proposal.
"I understand that difficult cuts have to be made," Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) wrote in a letter to the White House on Wednesday. "But in the middle of a brutal, even historic, New England winter, home heating assistance is more critical than ever to the health and welfare of millions of Americans, especially senior citizens. I request that the administration preserve LIHEAP funding at least to the Fiscal Year 2010 funding at $5.1 billion when it submits its FY12 budget proposal to Congress."