Does Obama Care About Poor People in NYC?

The Red Hook Houses

Because Obama and Congress couldn’t reach a deficit-reduction deal, a plan B so draconian no one thought it could ever actually go into effect went into effect: Sequestration will result in $1 trillion in cuts over the next eight years. How does this affect New York? Not so drastically: the city expects to lose $300 million, though that’s only less than half of one percent of the city’s $69 billion budget, the Wall Street Journal reports. But that doesn’t mean no one will be affected: the New York City Housing Authority, which oversees the city’s public housing projects, will lose about $205 million this year because “it receives the bulk of its funding from the federal government,” the Journal reports—about 11 percent of its $2 billion budget.

“If NYCHA was a city, it would rank 21st in population size in the United States,” according to city statistics. Almost 5 percent of New Yorkers are part of NYCHA. What does sequestration mean for them? It means the authority will lay off 500 workers and “plans to close more than 100 senior citizen and community centers by the end of the summer… all of its 12,000 employees could face furloughs, and thousands of Section 8 vouchers, or the federal funding that pays part of poor people’s rent, could be lost,” the Journal reports.

Almost half of NYCHA residents belong to working households; most of the rest live off Social Security, veteran’s benefits, a pension, or something similar. Only 11 percent are on public assistance. Almost 46 percent of residents are black, almost 44 percent Hispanic. The median incomes of all ethnic and racial groups falls between $20,000 and $25,000.

So, America is balancing its budget on the backs of the country’s poor—its working poor, its minorities. So if you don’t actually feel the effects of Sequestration in your own life, remember that it’s being felt acutely by the people most in need of government assistance—that “balancing the budget” is not our country tightening its belt out of necessity in fair and just ways, but a euphemism for picking on the people least equipped to fight back. I mean, the city can’t even find $1.5 million in a $69 billion budget—0.002 percent, a number so negligible it’s practically incalculable—to save a few swimming pools.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart


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