Bush To City: Drop Dead
Buried in Bush's $2.4 trillion budget for 2005 is another battering blow: The budget provides $2 billion less than the Congressional Budget Office estimates is needed to fund Section 8 housing vouchers for the 2 million impoverished, elderly or disabled people already enrolled in this rent-subsidy program nationally. With 80,000 New Yorkers now in the Section 8 program, this means up to 10,000 New York families are now in jeopardy of losing their vouchers and their homes.
There are an additional 130,000 applicants in New York on the waiting list for Section 8 housing vouchers--but this waiting list has been closed to most new applicants since December 1994, because the demand is so overwhelming in a city with a permanent shortage of affordable housing. The voucher program provides a rent subsidy averaging $6,500 a year to families generally earning less than $20,000 a year (the vouchers pay the difference between the market rent of an apartment and 30 percent of a household's income). This cut will annul hope for everyone on the waiting list.
If the Bush budget proposal is approved, this will be the first time in the thirty-one-year history of the HUD-administered voucher program that the number of vouchers would be reduced. Bush tried to cut voucher funding last year, but the money was restored at the last minute by Congress in an omnibus appropriations bill. That cut would have forced 6,100 New Yorkers out of the program, and into almost certain homelessness and destitution.
New York City already has a famine of affordable housing, with rents rising faster than wages and 39,000 homeless people in city shelters, including 16,300 children. Evictions are up. Families are living doubled and tripled up. In Chinatown, I have interviewed immigrants who are renting a bed because they can't afford a room.
It's not possible to know with certainty why Bush and his team have treated New York so unfairly, or what Bush says about us in private with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Tom DeLay, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. The Bush team's economic, cultural, political and regional biases surely work against us. I suspect, but can't prove, that they want to punish us because so many New Yorkers are Democrats, union members, immigrants, blacks, Latinos, gays, war critics, civil libertarians, feminists, Jews, artists and bohemians. All I know is that we have been their policy piñata.
We do know what another modern Republican President really felt about New York--because it is preserved on tape. The darkest expression of right-wing nativism can be heard coming out of the mouth of Richard Nixon, on a Watergate tape recorded in 1972 and made public in December of 2003. Sounding like John Rocker on steroids, Nixon exclaims, "God damn New York." Then he whines that New York is filled with "Jews, and Catholics, and blacks and Puerto Ricans." He said there is "a law of the jungle where some things don't survive. Maybe New York shouldn't survive. Maybe it should go through a cycle of destruction."
The irony is that even Richard Nixon--after he vented--treated New York more equitably in his policies and priorities than George Bush has.