Sunday, January 15, 2006

Still Dreaming on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.

As he stated:
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today."
And this is what President Bush had to say Friday:
"Dr. King believed that all people are made in God's image and created equal. He dedicated his life to empowering people, no matter their circumstances, and challenged them to lift up their neighbors and communities. He broke down barriers within our society by encouraging Americans to look past their differences and refused to rest until our Nation fulfilled its pledge of liberty and justice for all.

As we observe and honor Dr. King's birthday, we are reminded that great causes often involve great sacrifices. In the five decades since Dr. King and Mrs. Parks stood together in Montgomery, Alabama, our country has made great progress toward equality for every citizen. Yet more work remains. In the words of Dr. King, "We will not be satisfied until 'justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.'"

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Monday, January 16, 2006, as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday. I encourage all Americans to observe this day with appropriate civic, community, and service programs and activities in honor of the memory and legacy of Dr. King.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirtieth."
And yet what has been the effect of the Bush Administration on African-Americans in the United States? And who has actually borne these "sacrifices" that President Bush refers to?

As reported on NPR On December 27, 2005:
"According to Bob Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the cuts include a $350 million reduction in child and family services programs, including Head Start, a cut of 4 percent, he says. That means there will be 25,000 fewer Head Start slots for low-income children.

A separate budget bill approved by the Senate Wednesday got somewhat more attention, after Vice President Dick Cheney cast a tie-breaking vote.

That measure would reduce spending for Medicaid, Medicare and other major health and welfare programs.

"Today what we voted on means that we're going to cut entitlement spending, slow that growth by $40 billion," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). "It demonstrates fiscal responsibility. It shows that we're going to eliminate wasteful Washington spending."

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) said that Democrats were overreaching when they claimed the cuts would hurt poor people.

"What we've done here today is we've made some changes to those programs that make those programs better, more efficient and more targeted to the people in need," Santorum said. "That is not cutting benefits to those who are entitled to entitlements; it is making those programs work better and in the context of more fiscal responsibility."

But Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities disagreed.

"Rhetoric saying things like 'Oh, this just slows the rate of growth' makes it sound like low-income families are getting expanded benefits and the benefit will simply expand a little less. That is flatly not true," Greenstein said.

"No knowledgeable person who follows the low-income programs would accept the view that there's no pain to needy and vulnerable people in this bill," he added.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would, among other things, cut funding for enforcement of child support, resulting in children losing some $8 billion. Also, poor families would pay more for their health care. And seniors would have a harder time qualifying for nursing home care.

Greenstein says one of the most potentially damaging provisions would require those applying for Medicaid to present proof of citizenship -- either a birth certificate or passport.

Many low-income Americans don't have access to their birth certificates -- or don't have one at all.

For example, African Americans born in the south in the 1930s and '40s -- as many as 20 percent, according to one study -- don't have birth certificates because hospitals wouldn't accept black women in labor.

As a result, Greenstein says, "We're facing the prospect of significant numbers of elderly black Americans being thrown off of Medicaid because they can't provide a birth certificate -- because they weren't born in a hospital due to discrimination."

Have you had enough?

Have you had enough of an Administration that cuts benefits for the poor and cuts taxes for the wealthy?

Senator Kerry is in Pakistan, visiting the earthquake damaged region.

In 2003, he explained his views on Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Over and over again, this Administration tries to substitute the rhetoric of diversity for a real civil rights agenda. Congressman Bobby Scott put it exactly right when President Bush criticized Trent Lott. He told us that it's not the President's words you need to focus on - it's the actions. Because while compassion is a great thing, it's not enough to feel badly for the child whose school doesn't have enough books - to feel badly for the machinist who can't support his family because he was laid off six months ago and can't find a job - or to feel badly for the single mom who works two jobs but can't afford health insurance. You have to do something about it. You and I share a different vision for America - an America that's impatient and bold in its commitment to justice and equality. Just as Martin Luther King dared to dream and challenged a nation to bring that dream to life, Robert Kennedy whose life was linked to Dr. King's, and who was killed less than two months later, shared his vision as he recalled the words of the poet George Bernard Shaw. He wrote: "Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask why not." Why aren't we dreaming things that never were and asking "why not?" Today African American families earn two-thirds of white households - about the same gap that existed when Martin Luther King was killed 35 years ago. Why not recognize that the playing field is not level and take affirmative action to bring fairness? We can help up the disadvantaged, without holding others down.
America yearns for new leadership on Martin Luther King, Jr. day.

America yearns for a President who seeks peace and global understanding and doesn't lie to Americans to get us into an unnecessary war.

America yearns for a President whose first priority is healing the sick and not interfering with medical research or the delivery of drugs.

America yearns for a President who tackles the war on Aids in Africa by providing family planning agencies with the appropriate funds and not denying them funds because religious fundamentalists feel Africans should not have abortions.

America yearns for a President who understands that being Conservative means embracing conservation, protecting our natural wildlife areas and not drilling for more oil instead of finding alternative solutions to our energy crises.

America yearns for a President who respects the Civil Liberties of every American. A President who follows the law, does not commit felonious acts of wiretapping explicityly prohibited by law. A President who knows that he too is not above the law.

America yearns for a President who roots out corruption from within his own White House, who fires those involved in leaking names of CIA agents to the public, threatening our national security for his own political gain.

America yearns for a President who doesn't go to bed with Ken Lay, and Tom DeLay, and who doesn't have a Vice-President who secretly adopts oil company executive's strategies with dealing with the energy crisis and then prevents Congress from knowing who formulated these policies.

America yearns for a President who understands that Torture is not an American value. That no matter how heinous a prisoner may be, that we have American values that rise above this inhumanity.

America yearns for a President who strengthens Social Security and does not seek to tear down this safety net for our Seniors.

America yearns for a President who understands that Drug Benefits need to be provided by Medicare, and that Seniors shouldn't have to negotiate with Insurance Companies to obtain their coverage. America yearns for a President who supports negotiations with Drug Companies and who doesn't endorse laws that prohibit our own government from obtaining the best prices for our Seniors.

America yearns for a better day.

We need a President like John Kerry. And a Congress that holds these same values as well.

Keep on Dreaming John! I ask "Why Not?" when others say "Why?". America needs you more than ever at its helm! Let us never stop dreaming.



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