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"It's a lateral transfer" -- George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Bush's Credibility Issue, Part 3: Tax Cuts

Monday, September 27, 2004

When George Bush says his tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans are beneficial to the poorest Americans. . .

I don't have time to write a long blog today. Fortunately, The Detroit News has helped me out:

Exclusive Report: Tax Cut Impact
Home rehab cutbacks leave poor in shambles
Millions struggle: Tax cut benefits outweighed by cost of shabby housing.
By Ronald J. Hansen, and Melvin Claxton / The Detroit News

BOSTON — A panic-stricken Maribel Colon rushed her daughter Kyara to the emergency room after the 2-year-old kept tugging her ear and crying uncontrollably.

Doctors treating Kyara quickly made a disturbing discovery: A cockroach had burrowed into the little girl’s ear and was trapped there.

It wasn’t the first time. Four months earlier, doctors removed another cockroach from inside Kyara’s ear.

Colon, who lived in Boston’s crumbling, roach-infested Maverick Gardens housing project, had seen enough. Shortly after the incident, she and her daughter moved out.

That was three years ago.

Today, the 64-year-old Maverick Gardens is being torn down and rebuilt under the Hope VI program, which uses a combination of federal and private money to rehabilitate troubled public housing projects.

But Hope VI, which has spent more than $5 billion on 193 housing developments since 1993, is being eliminated by the Bush administration. It is one of several programs for the poor that the administration froze, scaled back or eliminated to trim costs while passing $600 billion in tax cuts that went primarily to those who earn more than $288,800 a year.

America’s working poor have seen their tax cut benefits eclipsed by the cuts in services that helped them climb from poverty. Many of the affected programs are essential elements of welfare-to-work initiatives.

Federal housing programs are especially critical for Americans in poverty and the working poor, who often find it difficult to pay for shelter without assistance. Public housing is hardly a free ride for tenants, whose rent payments cover anywhere from 35 to 65 percent of housing authorities’ operating budgets.

Often, what they pay for are apartments in decades-old buildings riddled with structural problems. Hope VI, with its focus on razing complexes and replacing them with modern units, targets the worst of public housing.

Detroit has lost more than 6,000 of its 11,000 units in the last decade.

The result has been a long list of people — waiting longer and longer — to get into public housing. In Detroit, there are 9,000 people on the waiting list for public housing.

Under President Bush, funding for the program has fallen from $570 million in 2001 to $149 million this year — a 74 percent drop. And although Congress has extended the program for at least the next two years, the administration again has asked for no money to fund it next year.

While Hope VI has not always created as many low-income units as it tears down, it remains the only comprehensive rehabilitation program for public housing. And many of the nation’s housing projects clearly need an extreme makeover.

At least 66,000 of the 1.2 million public housing units are in such disrepair that local housing authorities consider them “severely distressed.” These units, in crumbling buildings with dangerously decaying infrastructure, are barely habitable, if at all.

In New Orleans, for example, inspectors for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development noted in 2001 that existing structures were so bad that if their buildings were privately owned, the agency could seek criminal charges against the landlord.

Given the age of many projects and their lack of upkeep, the state of disrepair should surprise few.

More than half of all public housing projects are at least 20 years old. One-third of them are more than 40 years old.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates it will take about $22 billion to catch up on a backlog of repairs in public housing. That’s roughly the amount the Bush administration is giving up in the first five years of cuts in the estate tax, which only the richest 2 percent of the population pays upon their death.

The federal government traditionally has been stingy with capital improvement money for housing projects. Under the Bush administration, it is even more so.

The current capital budget of $2.7 billion is $300 million a year less than when Bush took office in 2001. The cut is even more significant when inflation and rising material and labor costs are factored in.

At current funding levels, it would take at least 58 years to clear up the backlog of needed repairs, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that works on housing issues for the poor.

Allowing structural problems to linger also means fixing them will cost more in the long run, say housing authority officials.

In the meantime, the 3 million Americans who pay in excess of $1 billion a year to live in federally subsidized housing must wait for much-needed renovations.

Andrea Foster, a 52-year-old resident of the Brewster- Douglass public housing complex in Detroit for the past four years, knows well what that means.

One of the two elevators in the 15-story building has been out of service for months. Foster, who needs hip and knee surgery, said she has waited three months to move from her seventh-floor apartment into a third-floor unit. She said officials still need to repair ceiling damage to that unit.

Foster, who gets around on a scooter, pays $160 monthly rent from her $564 Social Security check. She also receives $42 in quarterly assistance from Michigan.

“You would think that it was a million dollars. It is so helpful,” Foster said. “It’s a shame $42 could uplift you so much.”

Competing needs

Faced with funding that hasn’t kept pace with needs, housing officials around the country have raided their already bare-bones capital improvement budgets to meet state and federal regulations and pay for day-to-day operations.

That is the case in Boston, where the housing authority has shifted 10 percent of its capital funds to operations since 2002.

Sandra Henriquez, executive director of the authority, says this means that repairs are delayed or put off entirely. Before the authority can make improvements to its housing units, Henriquez must ensure that units pass state housing codes and that underground oil storage tanks meet environmental rules.

These are “jailable offenses,” she said, which means they take precedence in her capital budget. She also must make at least 5 percent of her units accessible for the handicapped.

This alone will cost $35 million over the next five years, Henriquez said.

“Right now, I’m as lean as possible,” she said.

The shortage of affordable housing in the Boston area is a virtual epidemic.

There are 31,000 people on the waiting list for subsidized housing.

It is the same around the country, where the number of available public housing units has fallen by 100,000 over the past 10 years.

There are hundreds of thousands of people on waiting lists across the country. The lists include those trying to get into public housing as well as those waiting for rental subsidies for private apartments.

HUD stopped keeping a tally of wait times in 1998. Back then, the average wait was 11 months, with people in places like Detroit waiting for up to 10 years.

Known needs

With the rent on the private market often beyond the reach of many low-income Americans, millions depend on public housing.

“Nobody wants to live in public housing,” said Meena Carr, who lives in an apartment in Boston’s Washington-Beech housing project with her daughter and two grandchildren. “But when you can’t afford to pay the kind of rent out there, you have no choice.”

Carr’s daughter, Arlene, works 76 hours a week — after recently taking a second job. She said even with the increased salary, renting in Boston’s private housing market would consume more than half her income.

“You work so hard to get ahead,” said the 39-year-old Arlene. “But your money just goes in bills.”

It is hard to exaggerate the problem.

The number of Americans who spend more than half their income on housing, or live in substandard housing, has jumped from 7.2 million to 14 million over the past two decades.

Especially vulnerable are the elderly, disabled and families with children.

A million children live in public housing. And more than half of all public housing residents are elderly or disabled.

Half of housing project residents make less than $10,200 — a figure that places them in poverty. Many say without public housing, they would be in serious jeopardy of being homeless.

Praise for Hope VI

Even as Hope VI is phased out, many are touting its successes.

In 2000, Hope VI won an Innovations in American Government Award from the Ford Foundation and John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The award honors exemplary achievements in government problem solving.

In Houston, officials are completing work on the Historic Oaks of Allen Parkway Village using Hope VI funds.

“Hope VI was a fabulous program,” said David Zappasodi, deputy director of administration for the Houston Housing Authority. “It was a catalyst in the Allen Park community. It is a beautiful community.”

In Chicago, one of the nation’s most notorious housing projects, the Cabrini-Green high-rise, was demolished and replaced with attractive town houses.

The same is true of Atlanta’s Villages at East Lake, a project so crime-ridden and dilapidated that tenants and police once called it Little Vietnam. Today, it is a mixed-income community of town houses.

In Seattle, Hope VI money is being used to replace 893 damaged units at the New Holly housing project. The new development includes 968 low-income units and a mix of 465 market-rate apartments and homes.

In Philadelphia, $140 million in Hope VI money is being used to rehabilitate the Mill Creek, Richard Allen, Schuylkill Falls and Martin Luther King Plaza housing developments.

The Detroit Housing Commission is embarking on one of the largest Hope VI projects in the country. More than $24 million in Hope VI funds is being used in the commission’s proposed $250 million to $300 million redevelopment of Herman Gardens, on Detroit’s west side.

The 2,144-unit Herman Gardens high-rise, which was razed several years ago, will be replaced with 920 mixed-income town houses. Construction on the 139-acre project, slated to begin next year, was approved for Hope VI funding in 1996.

Before it was demolished, the more than 50-year-old project was riddled with problems and less than 25 percent occupied, said Damon Duncan, the Detroit Housing Commission’s director of Hope VI.

Maverick’s hope

Ruth Capone, president of the Maverick Gardens Tenants Association, is a third-generation resident of the project. She has lived there 40 years.

When lawmakers in Washington cut funding for public housing, she sees firsthand what it means.

Capone hears the complaints: cockroaches, drug dealing, wall tiles falling on children while they bathe. The tighter housing budget means there is no longer on-site maintenance for the aging buildings.

“When all the funding stopped, all the services stopped, too,” Capone said. “We got hit double.”

She said workers tearing down the existing structures have found traces of lead and asbestos, toxic substances that were supposed to have been removed
years ago. Both were routinely used in the construction of older projects.

Hope VI at least offers a needed change.

The new structures will have 368 units. A quarter of the new neighbors are working-class and can bring a more stable environment to the crime-ridden complex.

The new buildings have better heat, better cooling and offer residents simple comforts like their own front door.

Capone knows she and residents of Maverick Gardens are among the lucky ones. At least 66,000 public housing units nationwide are still classified as severely distressed.

“It’s about quality of life,” Capone said, standing between the new buildings and the old. “We don’t deserve to live like this.”

Read it on the Detroit News's webpage at:

Special Report - Tax Cut Impact

Also, please read
  • Estate-tax loss will punch hole in budget

  • Horse owners can write off $100,000

  • Thousands wait for years to get help with rent

  • Highly touted crime-fighting tool axed

  • Working poor suffer under Bush tax cuts

  • Pinch blocks rise from poverty

  • Meals on Wheels pares back from hot food to frozen

  • Poor juggle bills as heat aid dries up
  • George Bush says that his tax cuts for the ultra-rich are a part of his "Compassionate Conservative" program to help the poor help themselves. After reading this, do you believe him?


    Blogger Redneck Texan said...

    Shifting the tax burden is one of the most flawed socialist ideas the liberals support.

    For the last 3 years, I have payed Zero dollars in taxes. I consider myself middle-class. My wife dont work, and with three kids I have ended up getting back every cent I paid in, in the last three years, while under Clinton I paid several thousands of dollars a year for 8 years.

    Now I have some Massachusetts liberal trying to convince me that Bush has shifted the tax burden to the middle class, when I know for a FACT that it aint true. If I know Kerry is lying about this, how can I tell when he is telling the truth?

    Meanwhile, my boss pays several hundred thousand dollars of tax a year. His tax burden, and insurance costs are so steep, he might have to shut down the company I work for. Explain to me WHY our tax assessment system makes wealthier Americans pay a single dime more than some welfare recipient. Its just simply not fair. We ALL breath the same American air, it is fragrantly unfair to make one American pay more taxes, than any other American, when we all are only allowed ONE vote, in our democracy. If we are going to make wealthy people pay more, they should get to vote more.

    I think a national sales tax with no deductions, in lieu of the current overly complicated unfair system would be the best way to make sure that deadbeats like me pay our fair share.

    9/28/2004 02:30:00 AM  

    Blogger Redneck Texan said...

    Hey Gustav, have you discovered the greatness of the "Blog This" function of the "Google Tool bar".

    If you dont have google tool bar installed, it by itself is wonderful. No matter where in the internet you are, you always have a google search box in your browser menu, where you can paste text into, or even better you can highlight text on a page, and right click on it, and have a google search option right there.

    But it also comes with a "Blog This" button, that when pushed bypasses all your Blogger sign in bullshit, and opens a new window where you can paste into from wherever you are, and automatically inserts a hyperlink for you. Its pretty handy man.

    9/28/2004 02:44:00 AM  

    Blogger Andrew said...

    Q: "Explain to me WHY our tax assessment system makes wealthier Americans pay a single dime more than some welfare recipient."
    A: Because to that welfare recipient, every extra dollar represents food on the table or shoes without holes in the sole, while to some 'Bush tax cut recipient', that dollar represents a small piece of an even bigger SUV or a new golf bag. What is more important to you? A new luxury for a rich man or a meal for a poor man? Seems obvious to me.
    Signed, "some California Liberal"

    9/28/2004 10:34:00 PM  

    Blogger Redneck Texan said...

    Attention California Socialist:What are you saying, that because the wealthier American chooses to get out of bed every morning and go to work, he should be penalized with a heavier burden of supporting our nation, than someone who sits on his ass waiting for a government check so he can buy some wine? I have worked in convenience stores where degenerates would come in with a $20 food stamp and buy a loaf of bread, then take the US currency change and buy beer and cigarettes, only to toss the bread in the trash can outside the door. Screw them losers.

    That would be fair only if the wealthier working man's vote counted more than the lazy ass ones. All your flawed logic does is promote increased participation in welfare, and when the greedy slacker tells his non-working buddies he is getting "free shit" they will all vote for a liberal candidate that promises to keep the easy money flowing. When a large enough percentage of our population decides they would rather jack off all day and live off government handouts our economy will implode. ( re: Russia )

    However, if a bottle of cheap wine and cigarettes were federally taxed the loser would still find a way to buy it. The rich man would still pay more taxes, but no one would continue to get a free ride on the back of society. How did it get to be my problem that others choose to not work anyway. I am struggling to keep food on my table everyday, I dont need some society slacker stealing food away from my children.


    9/29/2004 02:18:00 AM  

    Blogger Gustav said...

    Thanks Red and Andrew,

    Red, I’d be surprised if you read the blog at all. Perhaps you read up to the words “Tax Cuts” and decided that since I’m a flaming bleeding-heart liberal, I was advocating wealth re-distribution Hugo Chavez-style.

    If you had read the article, you’d know that this is not about shifting the tax-burden one way or another, but about maintaining worthwhile programs which really give poor folks a chance to lift themselves up by their bootstraps, while holding the tax status-quo for folks who are living very comfortably.

    This is also not about middle class taxes. You may have noticed that last week an extension to Bush’s middle-class tax cuts passed with wide bipartisan support. Not a peep on this came from the Kerry camp because he, like I and most other Democrats, supports this extension. It’s a Republican myth (much like the “Liberal Media” hoax) that Democrats oppose all tax cuts at all times. Untrue.

    We Democrats know that tax cuts for the middle class and for small businesses help our economy because those folks end up putting that extra money back into the economy when they buy things like new vacuum cleaners and radios. Bush claimed that his gi-normous tax cuts for the rich would increase investment and create jobs. It has done nothing of the sort. The rich buy vacuum cleaners and new radios tax cuts or no, so where did all that extra wealth they got back in tax cuts go? I assume into tax-free offshore accounts, where it’s doing nothing for our economy, or into the stock market, where it has by now been nearly obliterated by skyrocketing oil prices due to instability in nearly every oil-producing region— thanks in no small part to Bush’s disastrous cowboy diplomacy.

    What we Democrats DO oppose are irresponsible tax cuts for those who don’t need it and who won’t invest it in our economy when the Republican House, Senate, and Executive are spending our tax dollars “like a drunken sailor” (John McCain). And what are they spending it on? Not on Education so that we have a better trained workforce which will be able to compete in the global economy— that went out the window with Bush’s decision to withhold federal funding from his (anyway ill-conceived) “No Child Left Behind” plan and leave it up to the already cash-strapped States to pay for it. Please remember that the States, unlike the federal government, are prohibited by law from running deficits. Nor are we spending it on effective Health Care reform, since according to Bush’s criminal new Health Care law, the government won’t even be able to use it’s bargaining power to negotiate lower prices for Medicare drugs.

    This is the equivalent of protecting your right to go out and get drunk at the bar by going out and getting drunk at the bar, coming home, and not having enough money to buy your kids schoolbooks or cancer drugs for your wife: Something I know you, Red – as a loving and conscientious husband and father – would never stand for. I suppose everybody has to make sacrifices during wartime—everybody that is, except for the drunken sailor.

    While I agree that our income tax system is too complicated, eliminating the progressive income tax system and replacing it with a national sales tax would be disastrous. Here’s why:

    Let’s say (for simplicity’s sake) that with your national sales tax included, a gallon of milk costs $2. Rich, middle class, and poor folks alike all have to buy milk so their kids can have strong bones and so they can have something to put on their breakfast cereal. It also helps if you want to make a hearty American pancake breakfast. If I have a family of 5 (like yours Red), I am probably buying at least 2-3 gallons of milk per week. Because the math is easier, let’s say my kids don’t like milk, and I buy 2 gallons per week. That’s $4.

    According to the Department of Health and Human Services a family of 5 in Texas at the poverty line makes $21,540 per year. That’s $414.23 per week. Hence, that family is already spending almost 1% of their income on milk alone. In contrast, a family who is making the least possible amount of money in the highest tax bracket (which would be abolished under your system) is making $311,950. That’s nearly $6000 per week. Hence, that family is spending only .0006% of their income on milk. Now who’s paying more? Remember, the rich family also has plenty of money left over to send their kids to a nice private school, with things like theater, music, and sports programs. The poor family lives in the shit school district and has to pay a hundred dollars a semester for each kid if they want to play baseball or football like their heroes, Nolan Ryan and Troy Aikman.

    Sales taxes are regressive Red (for that matter, so effectively are all costs not adjusted on the basis of income). While the poor pay less in dollar terms, they pay far more in percentage of income. How then, are they supposed to get their “deadbeat” asses out of poverty? They can hardly get their deadbeat asses out of bed after working two jobs so that their kids can have milk and play baseball. Since everyday costs are regressive, isn’t it only fair that we even out the playing field with a progressive income tax? (*Note: if you don’t like the milk example because it’s a food which probably wouldn’t take sales tax, then use gasoline or paper or winter jackets. The results are the same.)

    And it’s not only fair, but good for the economy. Those tax dollars (when invested in Education, Housing, and Health Care) give those poor folks a chance to go out and buy products which they wouldn’t normally buy from, say, your employer, who seems to be having such financial trouble. Wouldn’t he benefit from a large new market (like the working poor) to buy his products?

    With Bush’s Reaganite trickle-down mentality, the rich get richer, but the poor get poorer. By giving the poor some economic freedom, the poor get richer, and the middle class and rich get richer too, because the poor can go out and buy the products the middle class and rich are selling. I’m sorry you paid so much in taxes under Clinton, but under him the gap between the rich and poor got smaller, under Bush, it’s gotten bigger. Also, thanks to Clinton, it will be much easier for your children to get government loans to pay those extremely high university tuition bills they’ll have. Oh yes, and there was that balanced budget thing. . .

    Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I have never paid a cent in American income tax. I was a student until I moved to Poland, and here I don’t pay American income tax, because I pay Polish income tax. If I were living in America today, I would be in the second lowest income bracket (15%). Here in Poland I pay 33% of my income to the government, and am guaranteed no social security benefits, worker’s comp, or unemployment benefits. (And to pay for Bush’s ballooning deficit, Republicans in Congress last year wanted to eliminate my exemption, and that for all expats, so that I would have been double-taxed to pay for Bush’s billion-dollar-a-week-war! Is it a coincidence that those very expats traditionally vote overwhelmingly Democratic?) So, I know something about high taxes, and the taxes you pay in America for the services you receive are really quite a good deal.

    P.S.—Andrew, please keep coming back. Redneck’s got a whole team. I need some “pardners” to help me mess with Texas!

    9/29/2004 02:51:00 AM  

    Blogger Gustav said...

    Red, do you mean to tell me you've never met a hard-working poor man? Perhaps you're experience is drastically different from mine, but the majority of folks who I've met on Welfare used it for far less than a year to tide them over between jobs. I too have met these "lazy bums" who jack off and drink wine, but my impression was that their attitude didn't come from mischievious desire to screw us hard-working folk, but from a lack of hope after a lifetime of being shafted. Drastically different experiences, I must say. But I'll believe you if you tell me it's so.

    P.S. Play nice. I started this site because I wanted heated political discussion, not aggression. A poke at the political beliefs is fair, and in the spirit of the site, but personal attacks are not. Don't you think we've had enough of those from both Bush and Kerry lately? Politics is fun. Let's keep it that way.

    9/29/2004 03:04:00 AM  

    Blogger Redneck Texan said...

    Red, do you mean to tell me you've never met a hard-working poor man?

    Yes, I see one when I look in the mirror. And I think its unfair that others have to pay more taxes than I do to live in the same country. I dont care how or why they make more money than me, as I recognize the fact that I have made several decisions in my life that have led to my particular tax bracket. I could make much more money now, if I was willing to do what it takes, but why should my upward mobility put me in a higher tax bracket. With the milk tax example both families would pay the SAME tax, to live in the SAME country, and have the SAME voting power in its direction. It just seems fairer to me than forcing some of our citizen to support the rest.

    BTW: Me and Most of the guest at my blog met each other at The Command Post. I have been banned from there for threatening a terrorist, amongst other crimes against "civil & respectful discourse". Its just my style of communication. Thats why I started my blog, so I could play by my rules. I have been, and will continue to respect your commenting rules here, but my threads are specifically designed for "combative ideological warfare".

    BTW: I like your long winded concise intelligent responses, but want to let you know in advance that my threads have a built in 3000 character limit.

    9/29/2004 04:39:00 AM  

    Blogger Redneck Texan said...

    BTW2: My Get a job, Loser was aimed at the "society slacker stealing food away from my children", not the California Socialist.

    9/29/2004 02:24:00 PM  

    Blogger Andrew said...

    This California Socialist does have a job. If I didn't, when would I have time to post here? I would be too busy jacking off and drinking fortified wine.
    But if you think a country with a strong social system will necessarily implode, red, I suggest you visit Denmark or the Netharlands.
    Of course, Texans aren't known to travel much, well, excpet for all those Texan emigrants here in L.A. trying to become movie stars.

    9/30/2004 02:26:00 AM  

    Blogger Redneck Texan said...

    All I know is those rolling blackouts sent several of your well paying corporation to Texas, but now that you have a Republican Governor, things might get better.

    Lets see...you want electricity...but you dont want to build no plants...that kind of bit you in the arse didn't it.

    If your going to use a stinking drug infested European country as an example, you might want to learn how to spell "Netherlands".

    But alas, the management here dont want me to tell you what I really think about you, so lets just throw down on November 3rd.

    9/30/2004 03:23:00 AM  

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