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Flabbergasted. That word, describes the reaction of most people I know who heard the President say that we had to stop balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable and then seconds later say he was cutting funding to Community Action. Huh? Seriously? How does that make sense? Is it a ruse to convince republicans that he is really on the right side of their agenda? I don't know - I'm simply flabbergasted.
You see, I'm the Executive Director of the Okanogan County Community Action Council. For 45 years, my agency has been rescuing people from crisis and teaching them how to do what Lyndon Johnson described as "turning tax takers into tax payers". Poverty has been with us forever - here, in the nation, in the world, but so was polio and now that is virtually gone. Community Action is the nation's best hope for ending poverty because local community members strategize solutions that work in their communities.
Helping People, Changing Lives - the motto of Community Action Programs only tells a small part of our story. Agencies like ours do more than give hand outs - we give a hand up. We help people to create their own path out of poverty and on to a life of self reliance and success that repeats itself for generations and inspires friends and relatives who suddenly see that a different path is possible. These people implant the audacity of hope in their communities by their example. I could tell you story after story of families who have succeeded, I could tell you about seniors whose lives have been improved by extra food and warmth in the winter. I could tell you about foster children who were empowered with the knowledge of what it takes to succeed when they are suddenly cast out at 18 in a world where they are expected to care for themselves. These stories of service to communities are repeated throughout the state and the nation in large cities and rural areas like Okanogan County. But I'm not sure they would make a difference to politicians who are intent to rob the most vulnerable of our friends and neighbors of the only true safety net they have.
The excuse is reducing the deficit - that is, in a word, ridiculous. As President Bush's own speech writer said on NPR today, discretionary spending is not the cause of the deficit and cutting it will not be the solution. We as a nation have to quickly retrieve our moral compass, not abandon the most vulnerable in our society - especially the growing number of formerly middle class who have slipped into poverty over the last three years. We need to send a message to congress that we have priorities they should represent or they can be replaced.
I could quote our data on accomplishments, the thousands we serve every year with food, warmth, and shelter, the tens of thousands we have helped over 45 years, and what that has saved tax payers -but I don't know if it would do any good, you see, I'm flabbergasted.
For a clear demonstration of the small budget impact of cuts to Community Action funding, go to:
You will be flabbergasted too. Then write your congress people and express your opinion!
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