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on the radar:

Budget Cuts – Women and Children First

2.24.06 - In a stunning act of corporate foreign aid, last week President Bush gave away management of America’s ports to one of the wealthiest cities in the world, Dubai. It shouldn’t have been a surprise. This administration always dances with the ones that brung ‘em (the corporations and the rich) while thumbing its nose at the wallflowers languishing on the edge of the floor (the rest of us, but primarily the poor and elderly). Although the project is temporarily on hold, Republicans and Democrats alike are crying foul over the Dubaigate and are threatening to pass a bill that nullifies the contract. But Bush says he’ll veto any law that kills the deal; business interests, even foreign ones, count more than ordinary Americans.

The brouhaha serves a useful purpose both for the administration and the Republican congress – it takes our minds off the draconian budget already passed by the House, and the further cuts proposed by the White House. As usual, women and children are going to suffer the most. It’s an equal opportunity budget in another way though. Pregnant women and infants lose right along with school aged kids and older women.

New to the Bush hit list is the Agriculture Department’s commodity food program, which provides food packages to expectant mothers, babies, and the elderly poor (the majority of whom are female). Protection from domestic violence is a casualty too, as money for shelters and help for victims of sexual assault will be reduced by $35 million.

When it comes to cuts handed out by the House, it’s also women and children first. Medicaid benefits will be reduced by $29 billion over the next 10 years. Recipients will have to meet higher premiums and co-payments to hang on to these meager health benefits-of-last-resort. Estimates are that 255,000 kids in low income working families will be denied care in the next four years. That money is needed for “marriage promotion” initiatives, which will now be mandated in all states. Those programs are flush, with $150 million a year, even as welfare-to-work programs provide incentives for states to cut two-parent families off Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

We might not have so many poor kids in this country if poor women could get birth control when they want it. But for the first time in the history of Medicaid, states can deny contraception and family planning services to these women. There is no doubt that this foolish policy will increase unintended pregnancies, the public cost of which far outstrips the dollars saved by not providing protection. Meanwhile, millions of federal dollars are spent on erectile dysfunction drugs, until recently even handed out to men in prison

The positive side of the budget balance sheet benefits the already wealthy. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, most of the gains from tax cuts will go to families with incomes above $1 million annually (not your typical female-headed household) and corporations. Like the Dubai deal, when it comes to handing out largesse, this administration sticks to its priorities.