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Statement from the House Floor
By Rep. Cynthia McKinney
The budget is the most important legislative document that the Congress will produce. And in fact, all legislative bodies produce a budget, be it the school board, city council, county commission, the legislature, and of course us here in Washington, DC and the Congress. And the budget is our statement of values. It is a statement of values because we look at the definition of politics and it's the authoritative allocation of values in a society.
And how are those values authoritatively allocated? They are reflected in the decisions that we make with respect to how we are going to spend our money. And so when the president sends his budget to the Congress, the budget of the president then reflects the values of the president. And so this president has talked about an American prosperity, an America of prosperity and opportunity. But the America that the president seems to value is a very narrow America indeed.
In other words, our mantra ought to be "leave no American behind, in our quest for opportunity and prosperity for all." But sadly many Americans have indeed been left behind. And the situation isn't getting better. It's getting worse. A very few Americans are doing extremely well. But many of us are being left behind, and in fact too many of us are being left behind. For the latest statistics available, it takes $100 million Americans at the bottom to equal the share of national income received by the top 2.7 million Americans. And this budget doesn't even begin to address the widening income gulf in our country. In fact, it exacerbates it. The employment and income picture has gotten worse for people of color in particular since 2000, eroding the tremendous progress that was made during the decade of the 1990's. And in fact, since 2000 more than 1/3 of the progress made in reducing poverty among African-American families has been completely, totally, absolutely, 100% erased. As 300,000 African-American families fell below the poverty line just from the year 2000 to the year 2003.
I would like to bring your attention to the product of an organization, a product that I have become dependent on as I travel around the country and educate folks about the true conditions faced by people in this country. It's "The State of the Dream" [Report] from United for fair economy. And every year they produce a report, "The State of the Dream 2004," "State of the Dream 2005". about the inequalities, the disparities that exist in our country along the racial divide. Now, I've got a couple of charts here that I would just like to show.
Now, on the index of income, can you imagine that from 1968 to 2001 the average black income was 55 cents compared to that for white income, and 57 cents in 2001 What United for a Fair Economy has found is that since the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on some of these most important indices the situation has gotten worse, not better, for people in our country. And here, over the span of 33 years, we have only increased the well-being by two cents. And at the current rate, it would take 581 years to even out the black-white gap in income.
Or we can look at poverty. Overall poverty to close the Gap? 150 years to close the gap, the poverty gap, as experienced by black Americans and white Americans. Or we can look at child poverty. The president says he wants to leave no child behind. But sadly if you look at the numbers, and these numbers represent real children, it will take us 210 years to close the child poverty gap. The president talks about housing. And we all know that homeownership is the cornerstone for the beginning of the accumulation of wealth. And look here at homeownership. It will take us 1,664 years to close the homeownership gap. Isn't that incredible? And what does that tell us about our country's values and priorities?
Our president talks about making this an opportunity society, making this a prosperity society for all Americans, but if the president's budget doesn't deal with these very real differences in the way real Americans live, then the president has talked to us but he hasn't really backed up his words with a statement, a policy statement, that will change the way Americans really live in this country. the bulk of Americans live in this country. The president can't create an ownership society without addressing these disparities. And sadly, his budget proposal falls short of even his stated goals.