By Contributor on February 16, 2011

By Kevin Alexander Gray

With his latest budget, President Obama reveals that he cares little about the poor and working class in the United States.

The proposed $3.73 trillion budget targets "nondefense discretionary spending," including many programs that benefit low-income Americans.

Obama's budget would make the lives of millions more difficult, and it would lower their horizons significantly.

For instance, the president proposes cutting $2.5 billion from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This program helps families heat or cool their homes, and Obama's cut would eliminate this crucial support for 3.5 million low-income households.

And as far as helping poor and working people advance, this budget actually kicks the ladder down. It freezes or reduces funding for everything from Head Start, summer jobs for youth and afterschool initiatives to GED programs and Pell grants.

Obama's budget also undermines the very type of community-based organizations that gave him his start in Chicago -- and his progressive reputation.

The administration intends to slash half the $350 million in annual spending on community service block grants that are necessary to help revive some of the hardest-hit areas in the country. The official unemployment rate for black Americans is 15.7 percent (versus the overall rate of 9.0 percent), and black youth unemployment hovers at more than twice that level. Yet Obama proposes cutting grants that enable local governments to deliver services in communities with heavy concentrations of poor and minority residents.

That's a fine how do you do. The nation's first black president, a man whose own single mother depended on food stamps to feed her family, is willing to ditch the poor.

Less than two months after signing $858 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans into law, Obama is abandoning many of the neediest, proving that they have gotten precious little from his administration beyond the symbolism of his presence in the White House.

Kevin Alexander Gray, is the author of the recently published books "Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics" and "The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama." He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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