President Bush's Broken Promises To African Americans by Terry McAullife
The President's inability to make the right choices is most apparent with policies that impact African Americans, where his efforts to reach out and transform Republicans into a party of inclusion are coming up short. Bush seems content to create an "illusion of inclusion", as he continually scales back or completely drops the very ideas that were designed to woo African Americans.
With two out of five African American seniors relying on Social Security as their sole source of income, Bush's policies are setting off serious alarms about the program's future stability within that community. He promised not to tap the Social Security Trust fund for general government spending. However, over the next ten years the President's budget violates that pledge to the tune of $1.65 trillion. Instead of strengthening social security before baby-boomers start retiring, Bush is moving aggressively to weaken the program.
The President is determined to create further insecurity by pushing a privatization scheme, which encourages future retirees to invest part of their hard-earned money in the volatile stock market. This plan also calls for cutting guaranteed benefits and raising the retirement age to help pay for the transition costs. It's no wonder Republicans in Congress want to put off a vote on this issue until after the mid-term elections - because they know Americans, and especially African Americans, are not on their side.
The President promised to "leave no child behind", an obvious appeal to parents frustrated by the problems with many public schools. He likes to emphasize the bipartisan "No Child Left Behind" education reform bill as proof of his commitment. Yet, Bush's own budget creates an "unfunded mandate" by actually cutting $90 million from the very legislation he championed. In fact, he actually proposes the smallest education increase in seven years at 2.8%. In addition, the President's budget also cuts targeted funding for rural education and drop out assistance. Other programs barely survive the budget chopping block -- resources for teacher training, educational technology, after-school programs, and safe and drug-free schools are frozen; while for the second year in a row he allocates no money for school modernization. All of these initiatives are critical to enhancing minority student performance, which was supposed to be a cornerstone of Bush's compassionate conservative agenda.
The improvement of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Historically Black Graduate Institutions (HBGI) now is becoming more difficult, as the Bush budget offers an increase of 3.5%, the smallest amount in five years. As for making higher education more affordable, the maximum Pell Grant award is capped at $4,000, a full $1,100 less than the President's campaign guaranteed to college students. In addition, $1.3 billion was almost yanked from a federal student loan program that generates lower interest rates, but the Bush administration was pressured into understanding that balancing the budget at the expense of college students was unwise.
And what and where exactly are the Bush solutions for early childhood learning, a big African American priority? Without providing the resources, the President will not become a "reformer with results" and many African American children and college students will suffer the consequences.
Abandoning Equal Justice
One of Bush's biggest complaints on the campaign trail was the so-called "over-politicization" of the Clinton Administration's Justice Department, but once elected President he all but turned the Justice Department over to the Republican National Committee. First, he appointed archconservative John Ashcroft as Attorney General, who in turn quickly moved to replace career justice department lawyers with Republican political operatives.
Under Ashcroft's watch, departmental delay tactics nullified a fair Mississippi federal redistricting plan, allowing another version that disenfranchises African Americans to become law. The Adams Mark hotel chain, whose president is an Ashcroft friend and campaign contributor, nearly received an unwarranted early dismissal of its racial discrimination settlement decree until bad publicity torpedoed the effort. Bush nominated Ted Olson, who represented him before the Supreme Court in the Florida Election recount case, to be Solicitor General. In addition, Olson argued in 1996, on a pro-bono basis, to end race-conscious admissions policies in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi - states with extremely high minority populations. The President then appointed Gerald Reynolds, a vocal affirmative action critic, to head the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education, while Congress was in recess. The highly successful law enforcement program, COPS, also continues to be cut and the welcomed drop in crime rates continues to be endangered. African Americans cannot afford a Justice Department run by the right wing of the Republican party, who let their ideology cloud their judgment.
Air Conditioning And Heating Funding Cut
Bush promised to fully fund the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), as "a way to help low income folks, particularly here in the East, to pay for their high fuel bills." Instead, the President's budget cuts the program, by almost 20%. African Americans disproportionately benefit from LIHEAP, which helps people who struggle to pay their bills when the weather becomes bitterly cold or brutally hot.
By breaking one promise after another, and continually choosing to side with special interests, it is clear what Bush's priorities are. He claims to be a new kind of Republican, but African Americans are saying, "What's new?" Soothing speeches and nice photo ops are all the President has offered so far - where are the new policies?"
Terry McAuliffe is Chairman of the Democratic National Committee
Tuesday, May 7, 2002