CHICAGO – More than 40 Chicago-area organizations have launched a coalition to challenge the Bush administration’s economic agenda and spending priorities. Labor, community, religious, student and other organizations announced the formation of Action for New Priorities at an April 2 news conference here, declaring, “We will not sit idly by while this country’s basic values of fairness and justice are subverted. We demand a right to be heard in determining this country’s future.”

A theme echoing through the remarks of all speakers was that the Bush administration is using its “war on terrorism” to promote an economic assault on the American people to benefit the “obscenely wealthy.”

“George Bush and his ‘Tom-Delaying Tactics’ allies in Congress [are declaring] war on average Americans, while stacking the deck in favor of his wealthy friends and campaign donors,” said Gerald Zero, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 705. “It’s time to say ‘enough!’”

“Congress authorized George Bush to wage war on terrorists,” Zero noted. “They did not authorize a declaration of economic war on average Americans.”

Among the elements of that war, Zero singled out Bush’s huge tax breaks for the wealthy, his push for more “free trade” agreements despite massive job losses resulting from NAFTA, stonewalling by Bush and his congressional allies over extending unemployment benefits, and attempts to “Enronize” social security.

Jesus Garcia, executive director of Little Village Community Development Corp., said “George Bush must be made to understand that our struggle with terrorism can’t justify starving our children, leaving the sick unattended, and sending families out into the street.”

Garcia drew attention to the recent Supreme Court ruling giving “corporate America a green light to exploit undocumented workers with no consequences.” The ruling, Garcia charged, is “a signal that the friends of George Bush intend to continue to wage war on the most vulnerable members of our society.” He said this ruling underscores the importance for immigrants and the Latino community to participate in struggles against the Bush agenda.

“We will not be complicit in the aiding and abetting of morally indefensible policies by providing soup kitchens to cover draconian policy decisions,” said Rev. Dr. Calvin Morris, executive director of the Community Renewal Society. “No network of churches, synagogues and mosques can replace government’s responsibility to solve deep societal problems like hunger, poverty, joblessness, homelessness and lack of universal health care.”

Morris commented, “It is a sad spectacle indeed when the world’s only superpower is reduced to the level of a unilateralist bully in its foreign policy, convinced that violence is the only way to achieve its objectives.”

Noting that “a significant number of people are facing life and death crises here in this land of plenty,” Morris declared, “We will organize and we will address the fraudulent, regressive economic agenda of this administration.”

Action for New Priorities spokesperson Bernice Bild noted that Bush’s proposed budget for next year includes a 14 percent increase in military spending, “most of it on programs that have little or nothing to do with fighting terrorism,” while providing no increase in funding for education, taking $9 billion from hospitals, cutting 15 percent from low income energy assistance and 6 percent from housing subsidies. “We are facing a crisis that will only deepen unless we raise the alarm and take action,” she said.

Among the coalition’s first initiatives was co-sponsoring, with the Chicago Workers’ Rights Board, a Speakout for Fairness and Justice in the Economy.

Action for New Priorities is a project of the Committee for New Priorities and Chicago Jobs with Justice. More information can be obtained by calling 312-738-6209 or 773-924-7886.

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Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.