lightening speed, President Barack Obama has moved from Stimulus
Package to a Home Foreclosure package, to working on the financial
bailout package, and now to the Budget. In his recent speech to
Congress he said something that most people who know anything about
government agree with: the budget is not only about spending dollars
and cents, it is a statement of priorities and therefore, the most
important policy document that reveals the direction he is taking
other packages were put together to handle the crises that President
Obama was handed. But most close observers I have read mark his
recently rolled-out Federal Budget as the most fundamental shift
in priorities since Ronald Reagan. His $3.6 trillion Budget buttresses
the direction of spending in the other three packages (the Financial
bail out yet to be presented) and it shows a $1.7 trillion deficit
for next year, most of which he inherited from the Bush administration.
This Budget, however, contains a new emphasis in spending for health,
education, energy and the environment and a push for job creation
to improve the well-being of citizens in those sectors. The Budget
is a statement about the change that the American people voted for,
the change they need.
The press always asks, when it comes to social expenditures,
a question seldom asked for military spending, for the rich, or
for any other of the pet projects of presidents such as the Iraq
War – “how will you pay for it?” Obama will pay for his Budget
by letting the tax cuts given to the top 1% of earners expire in
2010, thus raising their taxes after he believes the economy will
have recovered. He will also pay for it by cutting the budget of
programs that don’t work or are not needed, like some weapon systems.
this budget will not be easy because of something I have said before
about his election. President Obama was elected by a coalition
that was 60% white and 40% non white, a coalition that does not
reflect the power structure of this country. The power structure
in neither the House nor the Senate reflects Obama’s winning coalition.
The power of the lobbyists arrayed against spending proposals for
human needs does not reflect Obama’s winning coalition. The power
of the private sector does not reflect Obama’s winning coalition
where foundations, corporations and civic institutions weigh-in
on policy battles. He also faces serious opposition from conservative
power in the media.
this means is that we may be able to count on the 43% of whites
who voted for Obama. But unless the 40% of non-whites get busy,
where the need for government sponsored human services is most manifest,
the President’s Budget is likely to come out of the political process
looking something like the 55% of whites who voted for John McCain
and who dominate the major political, economic and social institutions
of the country.
can conservative power be confronted? For those of you who watched
Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union on C-Span television recently,
you could not escape the speakers’ dominant theme of holding the
government accountable. The missing element was how this was to
be done and the clear implication was it could be done by individual
citizens taking responsibility.
me depart from that answer and suggest instead that the most powerful
method of achieving accountability is through the organized power
of individuals. The Congressional Black Caucus went to meet with
President Obama recently, but I have not seen anything about the
result of that meeting. Some organizations such as Delta Sigma
Theta came to Washington, DC for their Annual Delta Days on Capitol
Hill to talk to members of Congress and seek accountability and
the National Urban League is in intimate touch with the administration
about job training and other urgent priorities.
where do you come in? A task force of citizens needs to
be created in every locality to track the flow of financial resources
into the states and especially into their communities and to demand
to participate in the decisions about how those resources are to
be used. Citizens must do the research, engage elected officials,
attend the meetings, and show up if necessary, to bring attention
to urgent community needs. “Getting busy” this way should get
the change we need.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Dr. Ron Walters is the Distinguished Leadership Scholar,
Director of the African American Leadership Center and Professor
of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College
Park. His latest book is: The Price of Racial Reconciliation (The Politics of Race
and Ethnicity) (Rowman and Littlefield). Click here
to contact Dr. Walters.