“Go big or go home”, could sum up the gamble the White House has made with its sweeping $3.8 trillion dollar budget to Congress.
As the President said on Wednesday, “It’s more than just a budget; it’s a blueprint for our economic future. It’s a vision of what the Democratic Party stands for — that boldly and wisely makes the choices we as a nation have been putting off for too long.”
In scope, it rivals the 1981 budget of Ronald Reagan, and like Regan, who also inherited a flagging economy, Obama is using the budget to redefine the priorities, as well as the role, of federal government. Where Reagan sought to increase defense spending, the Obama budget pumps billions of dollars into health care, green jobs and education, all the while risking the support of conservative Democrats with his wide-reaching and deficit increasing goals.
Gays and lesbians don’t live in a vacuum. Many Californians, after Prop. 8 passed were angered by their loss, but freely admitted that the election of Obama was the more important victory. While the struggle for gay civil rights continues, we’re not immune or blind to the many other issues that affect us in our daily lives. Just because an issue doesn’t have a pink triangle attached, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t impact us. In fact, many of the issues Obama’s budget tackles have direct bearing on the LGBT movement. Here are three on our radar.
The Obama budget bets the house on its education policy, which expands the Bush-era strategy of rewarding schools and teachers who excel, while increasing aid for college tuition. If there’s one single issue that gays and lesbians should get behind that’s not an obvious gay rights issue, it ought to be education. A survey by the Public Policy Institute of California released in December showed that it was education, not race, that was the key deciding factor in who voted for or against Prop. 8. The poll found:
“57 percent of voters with a college degree opposed the amendment, while 69 percent of voters whose education had stopped after gradating high school cast their vote in favor of rescinding marriage equality.”
The whole of the gay rights movement has been about educating people about our lives and our basic equality with our straight counterparts and the more educated a person is, the more likely they are to overcome their own ingrained homophobia and ignorance.
Despite myths to the contrary, LGBT people are more likely to live at the poverty level than straights. A Williams Institute Study titled “Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community”, not only found that gays and lesbians enjoyed no economic advantages, but that rates of poverty among children in gay and lesbian households are “strikingly high.” There are nearly 50 million uninsured Americans, which means, by conservative estimates, 4 million gays and lesbians who have no health coverage whatsoever.
Increased costs and access to medical care are even more devastating when you’re living with AIDS and with AIDS infection rates rising by double-digits among young gay men, a segment of the population highly likely not to have coverage, we’re flirting with disaster. While AIDS groups like GMHC are able to provide some level of service, the reality is that the problem is too large for non-profits to tackle on their own. National health care is contentious for many, but for the LGBT community, it ought to be a moral imperative. We’ve seen firsthand what happens when prevention and treatment are treated as secondary priorities.
Green Jobs & Infrastructure
We’re all in this together on Planet Earth, but LGBT people have a special stake in the nascent green economy. While it’s always been the narrative of gays and lesbians to move away from their hometowns for the lure of the big city, the changing economy has led to a dramatic rise in urban populations in the last decade. There are 40 million living in California today. By mid-century that number is expected to double. This is a mixed blessing for gays and lesbians. Historic gay ghettos like Chelsea, The West Village and West Hollywood have been priced out for many LGBT people, but the cycle of gentrification and renewal in urban areas has been spearheaded by local gay populations. It’s gay people who move into affordable areas and open new businesses and make once unfriendly areas more livable.
They don’t call it “gaytrification” for nothing, after all.
For cities to meet the demands of this new growth, the aging stock of transportation networks, utilities and even such basic things as pipes and electric grids, need a massive overhaul.
Furthermore, many of the new green jobs are perfectly suited to the design-eye that we’re famous for. 70% of the existing housing stock in America will be replaced within the next thirty years, which is good news for contractors and builders, but also for architects and designers. The challenges to the new economy can’t be overcome with brute strength or senseless spending, but with a knack for detail, a focus on innovative solutions and an ability to take new technologies and make them compatible with daily life. Maybe we’re a little biased, but those are skills we think LGBT people have in spades.
What other issues should we be paying attention to as a community outside the usual circle of civil rights suspects? Are you supportive of the Obama budget or against it? Let us know in the comments.