Inequality, poverty threaten democracy, group says

HOUSTON — There’s a new coalition in town. Convened to discuss the devastating impact of President Bush’s budget proposals, the city’s progressive, religious, labor and civil rights organizations and elected officials announced the formation of “Coalition of Working People and the Poor” on Feb. 16.

Pointing to the huge disparities between the rich and poor that have widened and deepened during the Bush administration, the coalition said inequality and poverty are a threat to democracy.

Bishop James Dixon II, senior pastor of Community of Faith Church, leads the coalition. There is “strength in unity,” he said. Others at the meeting said the Bush administration attempts to split social programs by making them compete for funding, pitting them against each other for a shrinking pot.

Dixon announced a March 24 demonstration here to protest human-needs funding cuts.

“We are appalled at the proposed budget of President George Bush, which further illustrates this administration’s callousness towards this condition,” Dixon said. “The message we continue sending to our nation’s less fortunate is hypocritical.”

Dixon cited these facts:

• 35.9 million Americans live below the poverty line.

• 8 million in Texas are without health insurance and over 1 million of those are children.

• The proposed federal budget would pay workfare recipients less than the minimum wage.

• The $195 million per day spent in Iraq could cover one year at a public college for more than 17,100 students; or enroll 27,000 more children in Head Start; or provide health insurance to 344,500 working Americans; or provide a week of unemployment benefits for almost 722,000 unemployed Americans; or fund a day of Social Security benefits for over 6.75 million retirees.

The coalition’s plan of action includes campaigns on Head Start, food stamps, children’s health insurance programs, and increasing the minimum wage.

For more information contact CWPP at (713) 688-2900.