Monday, July 4, 2011

How Far We've Fallen Since JFK (A Message to Senator Robert Menendez)

In his famous inauguration speech President John F Kennedy exhorted his fellow Americans to:

"ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Fastforward to 2011, Senator Robert Menendez (D- NJ) responded to the debt crisis not by asking his constituents to make shared sacrifices for the good of the nation, but resorted to ethno-political fear mongering, claiming that the paltry budget cuts proposed by the Republicans would hurt Latinos. Among the figures that he cited were that 59% of Latino families utilize the WIC Program and 36% of recipients of Head Start are Latinos, which is quite high considering that they comprise approximately 16% of the nation. If Mr. Menendez were truly concerned about the welfare of Hispanic-Americans and that of this nation, he would have offered the following speech:

"My fellow Americans of Hispanic descent, the majority of our community is hard working and has made great contributions to the economic and cultural life of the United States. From the toil of farm and factory workers, to the burgeoning number of educated professionals, we are an indispensable part of this nation. But, a disproportionate number of our people have become dependent on welfare and government subsidies.

I am not heartless, I understand that we are living in hard economic times that have thrust many working families into poverty. But even before the economic downturn, the number of families trapped in long term dependency was troublingly high. And now that we are facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis, a tidal wave of debt and unfunded liabilities that threatens the economic and social foundation of our great nation, we cannot afford this. I will fight to eliminate oil and farm subsidies and obscene defense spending, but that will not be enough. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other entitlements comprise over 60% of our budget. If we are to get our financial house in order, you too must sacrifice, for it is essential to lessen the number of Latinos and other Americans who have become dependent on the welfare state.

We must turn to our greatest strength: our sense of family and community. For generations we understood that it was our job, NOT the government's to care for our downtrodden neighbors and family members, but through the tyranny of good intentions, the welfare state has eroded this spirit and now we must revive it. But, more than anything, we must understand that these sacrifices are not just for the broader nation, but for our own community, for our own children. When so many of our young have become accustomed to the grandiosity of the state at such a young age, it does not bode well for their future social mobility. We did not struggle to come to this nation to offer this dismal future to our children. We can and we must do better. So, we must ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country, what we can do for ourselves."

Senators Menendez, Reid & Begich Discuss Impact of Extreme GOP Budget Cuts on Hispanic Community

Senators Host First Hispanic Task Force Meeting of the 112th Congress

April 7, 2011

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Hispanic Task Force, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), Chair of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, outlined the impact that the Republicans’ budget cuts would have on the nation’s Hispanic community, especially in the areas of health, education, and economic prosperity. The Senators hosted the first Hispanic Task Force meeting of 2011 with Democratic Senators and Hispanic Leaders from across the country to discuss priorities for the 112th Congress.

At the meeting, National and local Hispanic leaders had the opportunity to voice their concerns and ideas on the ongoing budget negotiations and the issues important to Hispanics across the country. Among other programs, the extreme GOP cuts would harm the 400,000 Latino children in Head Start, the 59 percent of Women with Infant and Children beneficiaries who are Hispanic, and over 1 million Latino college students who depend on Pell Grants.

According to new census numbers, Hispanics continue to be the largest and fastest growing minority, with one in six Americans being of Hispanic descent.

Senator Menendez said, “Show me your budget, and I’ll show you your values. Republicans have shown us that issues important the Latino community –strong schools, safe communities, and new good-paying jobs – are not a concern for them. Democrats believe the Hispanic community is a priority, our budget invests in their future, and we will continue to fight on behalf Hispanics across our country.”

Senate Majority Leader Reid said, “We understand the need to cut wasteful spending like tens of billions in government giveaways to big oil companies. However, too many Latino families in Nevada and across the country will suffer if the TEA Party gets its way and enact their reckless spending plan. Their extreme proposal slashes Head Start when 36 percent of the program’s participants are Hispanic. It makes drastic cuts to community health centers, when Latinos comprise the largest number of our nation’s uninsured. Furthermore, it puts the Minority Business Development Agency on the chopping block, a program that helped almost 1,500 Latino small business owners in 2009 alone.

“Republicans need to join Democrats in rejecting this extreme proposal and work to toward a bipartisan agreement that cuts wasteful spending, protects jobs and avoids a devastating government shutdown.”

Senator Begich said, “Senate Democrats know and understand how important the Latino community is to our great nation. As Chair of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, it is my privilege to partner with Senator Robert Menendez and the Hispanic Task Force to ensure that we communicate about our shared goals and shared concern about the reckless budget cuts our Republican colleagues are proposing. The Hispanic community in Alaska and America is rapidly growing and I am encouraged to see so many key Latino leaders actively mobilizing their communities to speak out against the immediate and detrimental effect these cuts would have on programs critical to millions of Americans. As I have repeatedly said, I hope Republicans will join us at the table so we can get a real budget plan that not only reduces our deficit, but also ensures that the economy is growing, businesses are thriving, and our communities are protected.”

A record number of 14 Democratic Senators participated in the meeting, including: Chairman of the Hispanic Task Force Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Daniel Akaka (D- HI), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Senator Mark Udall (D-NM), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Hispanic Population Numbers

As of the 2010 Census numbers, Hispanics are estimated to number more than 50 million (about 16.3%), [U.S. Census Bureau, 2011]

There are 1.5 million Hispanics in New Jersey, representing 17.7% of the total population. Latinos are now the state’s second-largest population group in New Jersey [U.S. Census Bureau, 2011]

Over the last 10 years, the Latino population grew by 39.2%, while the non-Latino population declined slightly by 0.8%. [U.S. Census Bureau, 2011]

Population by State

Geographically, most Hispanics still live in nine states that have large, long-standing Latino communities—Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York and Texas—but the share living in other states has been growing.

In 2010, 76% of Latinos lived in these nine states, compared with 81% in 2000 and 86% in 1990. (In 2000, 50% of Hispanics lived in California and Texas alone. In 2010, that share was 46%.)

The states with the largest percent growth in their Hispanic populations include nine where the Latino population more than doubled, including a swath in the southeast United States—Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina. The Hispanic population also more than doubled in Maryland and South Dakota.

Impact of Proposed FY2011 Funding Cuts on the Latino Community

Cuts to Head Start directly impact underserved communities

The Head Start Program gives low-income children in pre-school access to early childhood education and nutrition. [Report]

About 36%, or 400,000, children in the Head Start program are Latino. [Report]

H.R. 1 cuts the program by 20%, ousting 218,000 children and forcing 55,000 layoffs. [Office of Head Start]

Cuts to the Women with Infants and Children (WIC) program will heavily impact many Latino families’ abilities to meet their nutritional needs

The Women with Infants and Children (WIC) program provides low-income pregnant women, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and infants and children under 5 years of age who are at risk of not having safe, nutritious and balanced meals with nutritious meals, nutrition education and health resources. [Report]

H.R. 1 would cut funding for WIC by $747.2 million

59% of Hispanic families with children under the age of five participate in the WIC program

Massive cuts will impact Latinos’ access to higher education: over 1 million Latino college students depend on Pell Grants to pay for their higher education.

Latinos are 14% of all Pell Grant recipients. [National Center for Education Statistics]

The House of Representatives spending bill would cut individual Pell Grant awards by $845. [Congressional Research Service]

Cuts will hurt the 1.14 million Latino Veterans:

Proposed cuts target homeless veterans by eliminating funding for new HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers.

About 11,000 eligible veterans would be affected [CNN]

Cuts endanger Hispanic Health Services of Latinos:

Hispanics are the largest group among the uninsured, with 38.9% going without coverage in 2010. (Gallup).

Community Health Centers provide primary care to 20 million Americans with limited financial resources, and are often located in communities that are economically distressed.

Hispanics are nearly a third of all Community Health Center patients. [NACHC].

Proposed cuts of $1 billion for community health centers equate to nearly 11 million patients losing health care services and 90,000 fewer jobs in communities with health centers. [Center for American Progress].

Cuts to USDA’s Commodity Assistance Program will endanger the health of vulnerable low-income Latinos at the time of most need

The Commodity Assistance Program provides low-income Hispanics with food and nutrition assistance through the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program, Soup Kitchens or Food Banks, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), disaster support, infrastructure and modernization support, and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. [USDA]

Proposed cuts of $20 million to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program within the Commodity Assistance Program will endanger the health status of the 467,000 low-income individuals that participate in this program each year. [USDA, Food & Nutrition Services]

Cuts to EPA’s enforcement of the Clean Air Act will put Latinos at significant increased risk of developing acute and chronic illnesses like asthma and other pulmonary and respiratory diseases from exposure to air pollution – including greenhouse gases

In a major 2006 study, it was found that 30 million Latinos – at that time 72% of all Hispanics in the U.S. – live in areas that do not meet federal air pollution standards for one or more pollutants. Further, over 28 million Latinos lived in areas that do not meet the federal standard for ozone.

Cuts to the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) will deprive the most vulnerable in society of food and shelter.

EFSP provides shelter, food and supportive services for the nation’s hungry, homeless, and people in economic crisis.

Proposed cuts of 50% to EFSP will impact Latinos particularly hard during the current economic climate, considering Hispanics are being hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis and face unemployment rates above 15%.

Cuts to the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) will result in greater unemployment among older adults.

SCSEP provides subsidized, service based training for low income persons 55 or older who are unemployed and have poor employment prospects, with the goal of placing 30 percent of its participants into unsubsidized employment each year.

SCSEP serves a large number of Latinos

H.R. 1, which proposed cutting funding for the program in half, would result in less training and less employment opportunities for older adults.

Cuts to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of University Programs will hamper college and university involvement in Latino community development.

H.R. 1 zeroes out the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Assisting Communities program which provides competitive grants to HSIs to assist in local community development.

This cut hurts both already underfunded HSIs and the low-income communities they serve.

Riders that block funding for expenditures on particular government activities would have a disproportionate impact on the Latino community:
USCIS Citizenship and Immigrant Integration Grants were prohibited from appropriations by one rider added to H.R. 1. These grants help fund programs to teach immigrants citizenship classes, integrating new Americans into U.S. society and enabling them to be more successful U.S. citizens.

One environmental rider in H.R. 1 would prevent EPA from limiting toxic emissions from cement plants, stopping the agency’s efforts to keep 16,000 pounds of mercury a year out of the air, with obvious detrimental impacts on public health, especially for Latinos, who suffer disproportionately from mercury exposure due to proximity to environmental justice sites.

Another environmental rider in H.R.1 would prohibit the federal government from paying the legal fees of individuals or citizens groups that successfully sue it under environmental laws. The impact of this rider would be devastating for many low income and minority populations that cannot seek justice through legal action if they and their attorneys receive no compensation should they win environmental justice cases.

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