Black leaders offer 'poor people's budget'
Some of America's top black leaders are about to mount a battle against the Reagan administration's budget cuts affecting the poor. Not since the civil rights quest of the 1960s have blacks rallied in any all-out, unified effort, says Paul Brock, spokesman for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Whether this will occur now remains to be seen, but black leaders contend the Reagan budget proposals are a devastating assault on the poor.
And, they say, they are not about to sit back and watch the cuts be approved by Congress.
These leaders hope to rally support of poor blacks, whites, and Hispanics for an intense, nationwide lobbying effort for an "alternative" budget prepared by the Congressional Black Caucus.
That budget calls for less military spending, restoring major cuts in programs that help the poor, and emphasis on higher taxes on industry instead of a personal tax cut.
The target for what black leaders readily concede is an uphill lobbying effort is Congress -- not the White House.
President Reagan and his staff are "not listening [to alternative proposals] because they're convinced they're right," says Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the NAACP.
Adds Donald Tucker, president of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials: "There's no dialogue."
But these and other black laders who gathered here this week for a strategy session are encouraged by a recent University of Chicago report on how the Reagan budget affects the working poor. It is based on a study conducted by the university's Center for the Study of Welfare Policy, directed by Thomas C. W. Joe, a ranking welfare official in the Nixon administration.
The study found that the proposed cuts in welfare assistance to the working poor would leave them less incentive to work. The cuts would narrow the gap between their incomes and those of people who rely entirely on public assistance.
When considered with other proposed federal cuts -- in public housing, emergency fuel assistance, medicaid, and jobs -- the study found that "many families will be unable to meet their monthly living expenses."
Said the study: "It is incumbent upon us to find less onerous ways of reducing federal spending without abandoning the commitments to economic and social justice which our nation has made."
It is these commitments for which the black leaders who met here intend to fight.
A poor peoples' letter-writing campaign is needed, said Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr. Pausing as she stepped into a chauffeured car to leave the national Black Leadership Forum here, Mrs. King said poor blacks and whites are "a political force" that must be heard.
The forum endorsed the "basic thrust" of the Congressional Black Caucus's alternative budget.
Walter Fauntroy (D), nonvoting delegate of the District of Columbia in the US House of Representatives and chairman of the black caucus, called their budget a "constructive alternative" to the Reagan administration's "cold and uneven" budget.
Mr. Fauntroy said most of those who benefit from programs for the poor are white. He added, "We are as determined as President Reagan to root out fraud and abuse." But, he warned, "Those who do nothing but carp at the poor and near-poor are inviting shame as well as violence."
The proposed black alternative budget for fiscal year 1982 would spend $27 billion less on the military, which it says the President proposes to spend $226 billion on; and $36 billion more on education, training, social services, health , and income security than Reagan's proposed $370 billion.