President George W. Bush, according to Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., doesn’t care about the poor.
Rangel recently called the president "our Bull Connor," referring to the racist former Birmingham, Ala., police commissioner who turned fire hoses and attack dogs on civil rights activists in the ’60s. "If you’re black in this country," said Rangel, "and you’re poor in this country, it’s not an inconvenience. It’s a death sentence."
Once again, Rangel displays the unique ability — apparently only possessed by Democrats — to peer inside the president’s soul, to conclude he lacks compassion and concern about the poor. For, one certainly cannot accuse the president of indifference to the poor based on his actions.
Since Bush took office, according to the Heritage Foundation, federal anti-poverty spending — including Medicaid, food and nutrition programs, housing, earned income tax credit and child credits, plus other programs — increased 42 percent. This is nearly double the rate of increase under President Clinton. Some critics claim increased poverty has driven up poverty costs. But poverty rates have increased less than 1 percent under Bush, and remain lower than the average poverty rates under Clinton.
Bush doesn’t care about the poor? Let us count the ways.
Education: Under No Child Left Behind, Bush increased federal spending on education — in inflation-adjusted dollars — from 2001 to 2005 by 38 percent. During the same period, Education for the Disadvantaged Grants (this includes Title I) — the program designed to decrease the performance gap between urban and suburban school districts — received an inflation-adjusted increase of 58 percent. Bush increased spending on Education for Homeless Children and Youth by an inflation-adjusted 57 percent during those same years. Under Bush, federal spending for bilingual education has increased 44 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2001. Bush has increased by 52 percent (from 2001) funding for Pell Grants used at technical schools and community colleges.
Job Training: President Bush’s 2005 budget included 12.5 percent more funding than in 2001 for job training and employment assistance. This comes to a total of $23 billion for 30 programs in nine agencies. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Program pays for job training for those "displaced" as a result of free trade. Bush, in his first four years in office, more than doubled the inflation-adjusted dollars spent on this program.
Community Service: The budget of the Corporation for National and Community Service — which includes funding for former President Bill Clinton’s pet project, AmeriCorps — grew by an inflation-adjusted 76 percent from 1995 to 2005.
Health Care: The federal share of Medicaid, the joint federal/state program, increased from $129 billion in 2001 to $176 billion in 2004, a 36 percent increase, averaging over 10 percent a year. Health research and regulation funding has gone from $42 billion in 2001 to $63 billion in 2004, a 48 percent increase.
Faith-based Initiatives: Tracking of faith-based spending only began in 2003, and was not broken out separately before then. Under President Bush, 600 religious organizations received federal grants for the first time in 2003 and 2004, and faith-based groups received 8 percent of available social service grants in 2003, and 10 percent in 2004.
SBA Loans: The Small Business Administration provided twice as many loans in 2004 than it did in 2001, providing over $19 billion in loans and venture capital to almost 88,000 small businesses. Over 30 percent of all loans and all loan dollars went to minorities in 2004, a 34 percent increase from 2003. From 2000 to 2004, the SBA backed more than 283,600 loans worth more than $63 billion, almost as much in those five years as the agency totaled in its first 40 years.
Homeownership: Half of all minority households are homeowners, an all-time high. In 2002, Bush vowed to increase minority homeownership by 5.5 million families by 2010. Bush pushed for programs on down payment assistance, and called for increased funding for housing counseling services.
Bottom line, under President Bush, the nation has seen the largest overall increase in inflation-adjusted spending since President Lyndon B. Johnson. Indeed, much to the chagrin of fiscal conservatives, President Bush’s budgets — even excluding defense and homeland security spending — make him the biggest spending president in 30 years.
But, Bush doesn’t care about the poor.
There’s a saying: We don’t care how much you know, until we know how much you care. If one measures compassion by "outreach," the president placed more minorities and women in his government and with power positions than any president before him. If one measures compassion by spending, the president owes no one an apology.
None of this matters, of course, as long as you’re a Republican. If "love means never having to say you’re sorry," being a Republican means always having to say it.