Poor and Poorer: Part I | Politics | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Poor and Poorer: Part I 

Vulnerable Vermonters feel the force of Bush's budget axe

The subject of poverty is complex. It has existed for a very long time and has a variety of causes. In fact, to untangle the social, economic and political factors is nearly as challenging as, well, supporting a family on a minimum-wage job. But the current state of the union sure makes us pine for "the great society." We cannot examine the full scope of the poverty problem here. Instead, we offer three views that may provoke readers' thinking about how federal cutbacks are making the poor - in Vermont as elsewhere - even poorer.

An annotated guide to Bush's misstate of the union

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, fellow citizens:

As a new Congress gathers, all of us in the elected branches of government share a great privilege: We've been placed in office by the votes of the people we serve ... Two weeks ago, I stood on the steps of this Capitol and renewed the commitment of our nation to the guiding ideal of liberty 1 for all. This evening, I will set forth policies to advance that ideal at home and around the world.

Tonight, with a healthy, growing economy, with more Americans going back to work, with our nation an active force for good in the world - the state of our union is confident and strong. 2

Our generation has been blessed - by the expansion of opportunity, by advances in medicine, by the security purchased by our parents' sacrifice. 3 Now, as we see a little gray in the mirror - or a lot of gray - and we watch our children moving into adulthood, we ask the question: What will be the state of their union? 4

Members of Congress, the choices we make together will answer that question. Over the next several months, on issue after issue, let us do what Americans have always done, and build a better world for our children and our grandchildren. 5

First, we must be good stewards of this economy 6 and renew the great institutions on which millions of our fellow citizens rely. 7

America's economy is the fastest growing of any major industrialized nation. In the past four years, we provided tax relief to every person who pays income taxes, overcome a recession, opened up new markets abroad, prosecuted corporate criminals, raised homeownership to its highest level in history, and, in the last year alone, the United States has added 2.3 million new jobs. 8

When action was needed, the Congress delivered - and the nation is grateful. Now we must add to these achievements. By making our economy more flexible, more innovative, and more competitive, we will keep America the economic leader of the world. 9

America's prosperity requires restraining the spending appetite of the federal government. I welcome the bipartisan enthusiasm for spending discipline. I will send you a budget that holds the growth of discretionary spending below inflation, makes tax relief permanent, 10 and stays on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.

My budget substantially reduces or eliminates more than 150 government programs that are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts, or do not fulfill essential priorities. 11 The principle here is clear: Taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely, or not at all...

Now, we must demand better results from our high schools, 12 so every high school diploma is a ticket to success.

We will help an additional 200,000 workers to get training for a better career, by reforming our job training system 13 and strengthening America's community colleges. And we'll make it easier for Americans to afford a college education, by increasing the size of Pell Grants 14...

To make our economy stronger and more productive, we must make health care more affordable, and give families greater access to good coverage and more control over their health decisions 15...

Because HIV/AIDS brings suffering and fear into so many lives, I ask you to reauthorize the Ryan White Act to encourage prevention, and provide care and treatment to the victims of that disease. 16 And as we update this important law, we must focus our efforts on fellow citizens with the highest rates of new cases, African-American men and women...

As Franklin Roosevelt once reminded Americans, "Each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth." And we live in the country where the biggest dreams are born. The abolition of slavery was only a dream - until it was fulfilled. The liberation of Europe from fascism was only a dream - until it was achieved. The fall of imperial communism was only a dream - until, one day, it was accomplished. Our generation has dreams of its own, and we also go forward with confidence. The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable - yet we know where it leads: It leads to freedom.

Thank you, and may God bless America.

February 2, 2005, speech transcript excerpt from http://www.whitehouse.gov.

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About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.


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