Congresswoman Waters Raises Her Concerns About United States' Policy with the President
Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) is meeting with President George W. Bush, along with her Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) colleagues, to outline their concerns about the direction of the Administration's policies.
"Today marks only the second formal meeting the President has held with the CBC since he was sworn in as President in 2001. I believe that if the President wishes to establish a relationship with the CBC, he must give strong consideration to our concerns."
At the meeting with the President, Congresswoman Waters will seek to discuss her grave concerns about the widely rumored cuts in and changes to the Community Development Block Grant Program, her objections to the Administration's continuing assault on the Section 8 Housing Program, her belief in the need for strong federal standards against predatory lending that do not pre-empt state and local laws against predatory lending, and her demand that the Administration take meaningful steps, backed by substantial new funding, to address poverty and homelessness in America. She also will seek to highlight the need for full debt relief for the world's poorest countries, and a fundamental change in our policies towards Haiti. Finally, she will seek to emphasize the need for changing course in Iraq so that we can move towards ending the loss of lives and redirect our resources towards meeting the needs of the American people.
"We have an African American poverty rate of 24.4 percent; there are over 12.9 million children under 18 who are in poverty; there are 45 million Americans without health insurance; there is not a single metropolitan area where an extremely low income family can be assured of finding a modest two bedroom rental home that is affordable; and there are literally millions of people who are homeless. At a time when the Administration is about to request an additional eighty billion dollars for Iraq, all of us must ask the President squarely: What is your program for the millions of Americans in poverty? How many billions of new dollars are you prepared to devote to addressing the urgent needs of our people?"
It has been widely reported that when the President submits his FY 2006 federal budget to the Congress on February 7th, he will propose a major overhaul of HUD and recommend that HUD's $8 billion community development programs be moved to other agencies. Under the President's rumored proposal, the CDBG, Brownfields, and Empowerment Zone/Renewal Community programs all would be shifted to the Department of Commerce. These same newspaper reports indicate that the President is planning to propose severe funding cuts to these programs, including possibly a 50% cut to the CDBG program from its current funding level of $4.7 billion annually. If implemented, these proposals would decimate a program that has wide public support, along with the support of local officials of both parties throughout our nation.
"Any cuts to the CDBG program will leave a huge hole in the budgets of our local governments, a hole they cannot and will not be able to fill with their own resources. The net effect of cuts to the CDBG program will be a huge decrease in housing and economic revitalization at the local level. A shift of the CDBG program from HUD to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) at Commerce also would fundamentally change the mission of CDBG by changing the focus from municipal projects and the revitalization of distressed neighborhoods to business interests and economic development projects."
"The rumored changes to CDBG are proposals to decimate the CDBG program, to end it as we know it, not to improve the program. These changes must be resisted," said Congresswoman Waters.
Section 8 Housing
"Unfortunately, despite the clear support of Congress and the public for affordable rental housing, we can expect the Administration to continue its relentless efforts to dismantle the Section 8 voucher program. It is highly likely that, in the FY 2006 Budget, the President will continue the efforts to block grant the Section 8 program and further sever the relationship between affordable rental housing funding and individuals' housing needs. I deplore the continued willingness of the Administration to increase the rent burden on residents and reduce the numbers of families served by the Section 8 program."
"While I enthusiastically support all efforts to reduce disparities in the homeownership rate between the African American community, the Hispanic community and the majority community, our support for homeownership should not come at the expense of renters. We need a balanced housing policy that recognizes that renting will often be the best choice, and in many cases, the only choice, for large segments of our population with low and moderate incomes."
Congresswoman Waters urges the Administration to negotiate an agreement that provides 100% cancellation of multilateral debts owed by poor countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Treasury Secretary John Snow will have an opportunity to negotiate such an agreement at the upcoming meeting of the G-7 Finance Ministers on February 4-5 in London.
"Impoverished countries will never be able to eradicate poverty as long as they must continue to make payments on old loans that they never will be able to repay," said the Congresswoman.
Heavily indebted poor countries send more than $2 billion in debt service payments to multilateral creditors like the IMF and the World Bank each year. This is money that should be spent on pressing social needs like health care, education and clean water. Debt payments to multilateral creditors also interfere with poor countries' efforts to recover from disasters like the recent earthquake and tsunami in Asia.
"The people of the world's poorest countries need a chance; they need full debt cancellation," said Congresswoman Waters. "The Bush Administration should negotiate an agreement with other G-7 countries to cancel poor country debts quickly and completely."
Congresswoman Waters urges the President to develop and implement a new foreign policy towards Haiti. Eleven months after the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the democratically-elected president of Haiti, this small nation is plagued by violence.
"The Interim Government of Haiti, which is supported by the U.S. Government, is a complete failure," said Congresswoman Waters. "Haiti is in total chaos. Violence is widespread, and security is non-existent. There are over 700 political prisoners in Haiti's jails, including Former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and several other officials of the Lavalas political party. The Provisional Electoral Council has been discredited by corruption and is incapable of organizing free, fair and democratic elections."
"The United States must accept responsibility for stabilizing Haiti and bring an end to the violence," said the Congresswoman. "The Bush Administration should insist on the release of all political prisoners and ensure free, fair and democratic elections for the Haitian people."
Lastly, Congresswoman Waters will seek to outline her concern that the war in Iraq, which was presented to the American public on the false premises of Iraq's vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein's involvement in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, is draining vital resources that could be used to fund important domestic programs and adding billions of dollars to the nation's debt.
"We are spending billions of dollars on this war in Iraq - money we do not have - which could be better used to help with economic revitalization in our cities, provide additional Section 8 housing vouchers and a host of other important programs," said the Congresswoman. "I am extremely concerned about the effects this war will have on our nation's finances. Under this President, our federal budget has plunged into record deficits. In recent days, we learned that the FY 2004 deficit is the largest in American history and, already, the projections for this year are dramatic - at least $368 billion which doesn't even include the $80 billion supplemental appropriations for the Iraq War, extending the President's tax cuts, privatizing Social Security, all of which the President has said are a top priority for him. The burden for paying for all this is falling on middle- and low-income Americans and on future generations. They are being saddled with hundreds of billions of dollars of new debt. We cannot in good conscience continue these policies. We must face the music and change these failed policies."