Obama budget: First cut deepest

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The 2012 budget proposal released by President Barack Obama Feb. 14 has shifted his administration’s focus away from averting the economic crisis. Perhaps in reaction to Republican and Tea Party voters, the budget will cut $1.1 trillion from the federal deficit over the next 10 years.

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VALERIE JARRETT

“Having emerged from the worst recession in generations, the president has put forward a plan to rebuild our economy and win the future by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building our global competitors and creating the jobs and industries of tomorrow,” said Valerie Jarrett, White House senior adviser. “But we cannot rebuild our economy and win the future if we pass on a mountain of debt to our children and grandchildren. We must restore fiscal responsibility, and reform our government to make it more effective, efficient, and open to the American people.”

In a conference call with African-American stakeholders across the nation, White House representatives illustrated the continuing benefits included in the budget as well as some unfortunate cuts such as the reduction of funding for Community Development Block Grants and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. However, advisers said the Obama administration will continue its commitment to programs focused on education, innovation, clean energy and infrastructure.

“The president’s 2012 Budget is a responsible approach that puts the nation on a path to live within our means so we can invest in our future—by cutting wasteful spending and making tough choices on some things we cannot afford, while keeping the investments we need to grow the economy and create jobs,” Jarrett said. “It targets scarce federal resources to the areas critical to winning the future: education, innovation, clean energy, and infrastructure. And it proposes to reform how Washington does business, putting more federal funding up for competition, cutting waste, and reorganizing government so that it better serves the American people.”

African-American neighborhoods in Pittsburgh could be hit hardest by a cut in CDBG funding, which funds local community development activities such as affordable housing, anti-poverty programs, and infrastructure development. If approved the budget would take away approximately $300 million in CDBG funding from city governments.

“Initially there were thoughts about doing dramatic cuts in CDBG – I had heard up to 25 percent. The president insisted on a very minor cut of seven and a half percent,” Jarrett said. “We don’t know what the Republicans will do in response, but we are going to fight hard to make sure that you have every CDBG dollar that we can possibly give.”

The reduction of LIHEAP funding by $2.5 billion is another cut that could hurt low-income African-Americans who depend on the program for help paying their energy bills. White House advisers said the original increase in funding to $5 billion came in response to high energy prices that have since decreased.

The president’s budget is really grounded in what’s best for our economy,” said Cecelia Rouse, a member of the Council of Economic Advisors. “This wasn’t a cut anyone wanted to make. Should we see another spike in energy prices, we will revisit this decision.”

A budget proposal developed by the Republican Study Committee would cut the deficit from $2.5 trillion over the next ten years. The “Spending Reduction Act of 2011” would reduce funding for non-defense, non-homeland security and non-veterans programs, eliminate federal oversight of the banks, cut the federal workforce by 15 percent and cut approximately $80 billion for healthcare reform.

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