The Bush administration's new budget has left Washington's social-cause establishment in shock.
As many dozens of advocacy groups see it, President Bush's spending and regulatory plans will damage programs that help provide education, healthcare, child-care, housing, and other aid to poor families and their children.
"This is a thematic attempt by this administration to undercut gains in the last 40 years in helping low-income families," says Stuart Campbell, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, a group that includes as many as 200 organizations. "It is a clear attack on federal social-safety net programs."
"I don't think I've ever seen such an assault on children's programs," says Mary Bourdette, a director at the Children's Defense Fund (CDF). "A huge amount is at stake."
What especially galls these often idealistic groups, which tend to be more liberal than the American mainstream, is that spending cuts in their favorite programs help offset tax cuts that mostly benefit the well-to-do. Millionaires will receive $89,000 on average in tax cuts, they point out.
From the administration's standpoint, program changes are essential to restrain excessive spending, prevent fraud, and shift control to states and municipalities.
But these governments are in fiscal crisis. Many are raising taxes and cutting spending on low-income families.
Various groups are campaigning against the Bush measures. The CDF, for instance, organized teach-ins and interfaith services last month for nearly 1,000 religious leaders, policy experts, politicians, and others to protest Bush's proposals to, in its words, "eliminate, slash, and freeze children's programs."
The Fair Taxes for All Coalition, which fought the 2001 Bush tax cut, is resisting the new Bush tax agenda, which critics say could cut federal revenues by $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years. The coalition is made up of more than 500 organizations. It includes the AFL-CIO and other labor groups, civil rights groups, religious organizations, liberal think tanks, as well as groups concerned with housing, educational, and social welfare.
The Bush plan will "shift the tax burden to the middle class and poor," charges Joan Entmacher, vice president of the National Women's Law Center, a group comanaging the tax coalition.
Here are some areas that are seen by the advocacy groups as being at risk: