‘First responders’ respond to secret Bush plans for budget cuts
Local unions representing workers who would be “first responders” in the event of a terrorist attack gathered outside a Portland fire station June 2 to denounce plans by the Bush Administration to cut the budget for homeland security defense — after the November 2004 election.
The plans, contained in several budget documents uncovered by the Washington Post, include proposed cuts of $1.5 billion to the Department of Education, $1 billion to the Department of Homeland Security, $910 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs, $600 million to the National Institutes of Health, and smaller cuts to Head Start, a homeownership support program, and the Women, Infants and Children’s nutrition program.
Many of the cuts, intended to take effect October 2005, would reverse election-year budget increases that the Bush re-election campaign is publicizing.
The Portland event, organized by the John Kerry presidential campaign, included an emergency room nurse, several fire fighters and several members of the group Veterans for Kerry. Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard, a former Portland Fire Fighters Local 43 president, also took part.
“It is highly disingenuous to pledge support for local efforts to keep our homeland safe, while directing massive post-election budget cuts to those same programs,” said Bob Livingston, legislative director of the Oregon State Fire Fighters Council. “You can’t talk about how important the war on terror is and then cut support for the very people fighting it.”
Leonard recalled his emotional reaction to the deaths of firefighters on Sept. 11, 2001, and said he learned a cruel lesson afterward: That the firefighters would be called heroes, only to later see attacks on their workplace rights.
“George W. Bush has been talking to Americans out of both sides of his mouth,” Leonard said. “He talks tough about homeland security and then strips essential resources from the people who put their lives on the line to provide it.”
© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.