Our Opinion: Stand up for the poor


Because the sky didn't fall when congressional inaction led to billions of dollars in across the board budget cuts last week, it has been argued that the impact is not as serious as predicted. But pieces of the sky have fallen and will continue to fall in the months ahead, and as usually is the case when the mighty clash in Washington, the cuts rain down upon he nation's poor.

As was chronicled by Clarence Fanto on the front page of Thursday's Berkshire Eagle, Great Barrington-based Community Health Programs will be hit hard by the cuts, which means that the low-income residents CHP serves will be hard hit as well. There is poverty in the Berkshires and a high percentage of residents are elderly, and CHP helped 15,000 of these residents last year by providing medical and dental care at its offices in Great Barrington, Pittsfield and Lee. CHP receives 18 percent of its funding through Washington, and Chief Executive Officer Bryan Ayars said sequestration will result in $10,000 a month in reduced federal grants. Reduced hours, program cuts, staff reductions and an end to the enrollment of new patients are among the options CHP will be exploring in response to cuts that, as Ayars declared, didn't have to happen.

Because House and Senate Republicans refused to compromise with President Obama and match targeted budget cuts with tax hikes for the wealthy and the closure of tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy, the poor will suffer. With the House's stopgap spending resolution expiring March 27, the Republican Party's next manufactured crisis is now due, and a Republican bill offered in the House this week calls for more military spending, including increased aid for Israel, while reducing spending on health care reform (Obamacare) and failing to restore any of the lost funding for social programs and organizations like CHP that help the neediest among us.

Having been rejected by the electorate last November, Republicans must resort to extortion to protect the interests of wealthy campaign donors. A Senate bill produced last week produced by majority Democrats calls for equal funding for the domestic programs Republicans oppose and there is no backing down. All Americans, including the wealthiest, must share in whatever pain is caused by deficit reduction, and all Americans, including the poorest, must share in whatever benefits government has to offer.


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