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As Budget Battle Climaxes, Civil Rights Groups Tally Potential Damage

By Shani O. Hilton

April 12, 2011

As Budget Battle Climaxes, Civil Rights Groups Tally Potential Damage

As House Republicans and the White House traded harsh words today over the stalled effort to pass last year's budget, civil rights leaders chimed in to point out how much people of color are losing in the budget battle. In a morning conference call, heads of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Pan-Hellenic Council and the National Urban League, among other groups, called the GOP's budget proposal an attack on future generations.

"This is the most dangerous time for black children since slavery," said Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund. "At a time when the needs of the black community, poor people, and our nation's children should be held in the highest regard, Congress insists on cutting the most important programs that provide these communities the opportunities they need to contribute to the economy." Meanwhile, Republican budget guru Rep. Paul Ryan released the GOP's FY2012 "Path to Prosperity" budget, which would cut $72 billion in spending and target both Medicare and Medicaid for deep cuts.

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Ryan released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2012. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal he made bold claims about the effect his cuts will have, including a projection that unemployment will be reduced to 4 percent by 2015. That's a key number since, as Kai Wright mentioned yesterday, currently unemployment is at 8.8 percent overall, and over 15 percent for black Americans. But as Time Fernholz reports at National Journal, Ryan's projections are questionable, since economists predict that 5 percent unemployment -- which is considered "full employment" -- won't be achieved for several more years.

Ryan's proposed budget also assumes a repeal of the Affordable Care Act -- which is curious, to say the least, since, as the Congressional Budget Office has explained repealing health care reform would actually add nearly $250 billion to the deficit.

By afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama were convening dueling press conferences in which both sounded resolute about having done all the compromising they're going to do to prevent a government shutdown on Friday. The president rejected the House's latest short-term spending resolution, and Boehner rejected the $73 billion in cuts Obama offered as "smoke and mirrors."

Wherever this is all headed, the civil rights advocates made clear in their morning call that it's not likely someplace good for people of color specifically or economic justice broadly.

From Colorlines News for Action

Shani O. Hilton is the Washington, D.C. correspondent for Colorlines.com. She covers the intersection of congressional and White House politics and racial justice.




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