More ACORN Bans in New Congressional Budget

congressionalbudgetNew Orleans    Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Paul Ryan are once again accepting some praise at coming to a deal of sorts on the $1.1 Trillion US budget for this fiscal year without the customary drama and contention.  Speaker Boehner was strutting around at having pushed back the far right, never compromise, Tea Party contingent on the Republican side of the aisle this time around.

            Reading that showing backbone means that they only accepted half of the Heritage Foundation’s demands, gives me some pause, so we’ll have to look more carefully at the details of the budget, because as always the “devil” lives right there in those details.  Nowhere was this more true than finding that once again the efforts at ACORN-shaming continue to be included in the language, adding four new funding “bans” to ACORN and virtually anyone and anything ever involved with the organization and raising the total count to roughly 17 times since 2009 when first pushed through by the nefarious James O’Keefe and his slick editing of videos of ACORN housing advice. 

            Zach Carter of The Huffington Post, shared this analysis:

Not every appropriations bill carries such a provision, however, and while the legislative language tends to be boilerplate, it takes multiple forms. The current appropriations bill contains three distinct versions of the ban on government money to ACORN, each with a minor difference. One of the versions shows up twice.

The first shows up the Department of Defense section:

None of the funds made available under this Act may be distributed to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or its subsidiaries.      

The next appears in the part of the bill dealing with funding for the Department of Homeland Security:

None of the funds made available under this Act or any prior appropriations Act may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations.

The Veterans Affairs funding section contains this language:

None of the funds made available in this Act may be distributed to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or its subsidiaries or successors.

And a section on Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development contains an ACORN passage identical to the DHS version.

ACORN, of course, has no affiliates or subsidiaries, because it does not exist anymore. And while the bill does not define the term “successors,” the 2009 legislation to dismantle ACORN defines them as, “Any State chapter of ACORN registered with the Secretary of State’s office in that State,” “any organization that shares directors, employees, or independent contractors with ACORN,” and any organization that “employs” someone “indicted” for violations that ACORN was initially charged with. Most of those characteristics, of course, are irrelevant now that ACORN does not exist, and nobody has been indicted for the offenses the group did not commit.

            Is there no end to this?  Talk about “kicking a dead horse!”   Furthermore, my lawyer, the esteemed Doug Young of Scalan, Buckle & Young in Austin, Texas, says it’s all pretty much just window dressing, since even to define a “successor” would mean proving there had been a concrete financial or similar transaction between ACORN and the entities, but, hey, with all due respect to the lawyers of the land, the whole point of this continued Congressional genuflecting to the rightwing and the whack allegations against ACORN is to intimidate and chill the organizing by low and moderate income families, and to scare away potential funders, whether public or private, who just don’t want the hassle. 

            This has to stop!

 

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Fifty Million Poor on the Edge of the Fiscal Cliff

New Orleans   With all of the chatter about this so-called fiscal “cliff,” it seems the real danger is not to the poor rich, who might have to start paying at least a little more of their fair share of taxes, but to the real poor who are being threatened directly with every word out of Speaker Boehner’s attacks on remaining entitlement programs.  The United States Census Bureau finally got the wakeup call that defining poverty needed to include medical costs, assuredly, and work-related expenses, that are too often ignored.  The impact moved the numbers of poor in the USA to over 16% of our population and at 49,700,000, too damn close to 50 million who are now “officially” poor, though every one of them knew this way before they got the news.  It is this group that the Speaker and his Republican caucus are targeting as open season in their coming standoff with President Obama.

With the new Census Bureau formulas, more of the elderly, city dwellers and lower wage workers are rightfully showing up on the list.  Real numbers like these may take California from the pedestal our imagination placed the state in the golden west of our dreams to last place as the state with the poorest population in the country.  Also at the bottom with them now are the District of Columbia, Arizona, Florida, and Georgia.  The South is of course well represented still, but the traditional bottom dwellers (which are still near the bottom!) of Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona, and Louisiana inched up comparatively.

An AP story by Hope Yen captures the impact of the numbers well:

Broken down by group, poverty was disproportionately affecting people 65 and older – about 15.1 percent or nearly double the 8.7 percent rate calculated under the official number.  They also have higher medical expenses, such as Medicare premiums, deductibles, and drug costs, that aren’t factored into the official rate.   Working-age adults ages 18-64 saw an increase in poverty to 15.5 percent from 13.7 percent, due mostly to commuting and child care costs.

Equally unsettling is the fact that with these additional calculations, the Census Bureau also figured that without Social Security payments, the rate for the elderly would soar to 54.1% and 24.4% for all groups, without earned income tax credits, child poverty would go from 18.1% to 24.4%, and without food stamps the poverty rate would move to 17.6% from 16.1%.   These are all the last of the endangered entitlement programs that form what’s left of the “safety net” for American families.

The Affordable Health Care Act or Obama-care in Louisiana for example would assist 400,000 uncovered poor with health coverage and measurably reduce poverty and its impact in this state, yet arch-conservative Republican governor Bobby Jindal continues to stand in the way on this life-and-death proposition.  This is also true for a number of other states who are ideologically opposed expansion of protections.

What does it take to have a truthful debate about the disgrace of such politicians bending and scraping to advantage their rich friends and contributors, and literally sending the poor to death and demise?

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