Bush To City: Drop Dead
The FDNY has requested $250 million from the Bush Administration for the next three years for antiterrorist equipment and technology. The NYPD has requested $261 million. But according to NYPD testimony last November, the city has received less than $60 million so far--for all first-responder agencies. Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta says, "We definitely need more federal funding to be adequately prepared for bioterrorism, dirty bombs and radioactivity. We need equipment and training for these new horrors."
The FDNY has only one dedicated hazardous materials unit for the entire city of 8 million. Meanwhile, the fire department in Zanesville, Ohio (population 25,600), has federally funded thermal imaging technology to find victims in dense smoke and a test kit for lethal nerve gases. The FDNY is still asking for radios that work in a crisis.
New York's Congressional delegation is now trying to pass legislation to limit to fifteen the number of cities that qualify for homeland security funding. This seems the only way New York will get its fair share.
Before I get to how Bush screwed New York on healthcare, education and housing, let me emphasize: All American cities are getting shortchanged and stiffed. Bush is not just targeting New York; he has no urban policy at all. And make no mistake--New Yorkers are the crash-test dummies; if we survive a crushing budget cut or the elimination of a program, then it is replicated throughout the country.
Every American city began to suffer when the federal government stopped building housing for low- and moderate-income people while Ronald Reagan was President. San Francisco suffers from transportation funding formulas that favor highway construction over subways. Denver, Phoenix and Los Angeles suffer from pro-polluter environmental policies. And all cities, all poor people and most middle-class families have been damaged by the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. These tax cuts are the invisible hand driving all budget decisions. They give Bush an excuse for underfunding VA hospitals, Pell Grants for higher education, school lunches, job training and adult literacy. This is what New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called "starving the beast"--depleting the federal treasury, because the right wing thinks of the federal government as an enemy beast. The deficit is the politically salable excuse for miserliness.
The tax cuts for the rich rob the treasury of the money all cities need to address what John Edwards called the afflictions of "two Americas"--two public school systems, two healthcare systems, two tax systems. Because New York has such a disproportionate concentration of poor people, we are more vulnerable to Bush's neglect. New York City has nearly 1.7 million people living in poverty. Thirty percent of children are living in poverty, compared with 16.5 percent nationwide. New York has 966,000 residents on food stamps. A February study by the 156-year-old Community Service Society revealed that in 2003 only 51.8 percent of black men in the city between the ages of 16 and 64 were employed.
But as far as the Bush White House is concerned, every dollar spent on the poor is one less dollar for the deserving rich. In The Price of Loyalty, Ron Suskind quotes Vice President Dick Cheney's rationale in 2002 for more tax cuts: "We won the midterms. This is our due."