Bushes Budget (politics)
Feb 05, 2008 09:13 PST
Bush Seeks to Cut Vital Indian Programs
By Kevin Abourezk
You couldn't hardly have scripted a more insulting response to last
week's State of Indian Nations Address.
On Monday, President George W. Bush presented his budget for fiscal year
2009, which begins Oct. 1. In the final budget of his presidency, Bush
proposed serious cuts in federal spending to many programs vital to
In his annual address last Thursday, President Joe Garcia of the
National Congress of American Indians spoke about the need for economic
development, health care reform, public safety funds and education
reform for Indian Country.
"Through the eyes of a child, we see too much hurt, and regret, and
loss," he said. "But through our own eyes, we can see opportunity, find
answers and make lives better."
So it came as a slap in the face when Bush's budget Monday proposed cuts
to many Indian programs, including:
• The Bureau of Indian Affairs education construction fund, which would
be slashed by $177 million less than Congress appropriated for it this
year, if Bush has his way. His budget sets aside just $140 million for
• The Indian Health Service's Urban Indian Health Program, which serves
Indians in South Dakota communities like Sioux Falls and Pierre, would
not be funded, and likely be eliminated, under Bush's proposed budget.
Congress set aside $35 million for the program this fiscal year.
• The Indian Health Facilities fund, which would see a $22 million
decrease under Bush's proposed budget and receive just $362 million for
the next fiscal year. That account supports construction, repair and
improvement of Indian Health Services facilities.
• Three Department of Justice programs that service Indian Country,
which would be zeroed out under Bush's plan. Those programs provide for
incarceration on tribal lands, tribal courts and grants for tribes.
Congress provided $33 million for the programs for the current fiscal
• Two U.S. Department of Education programs that provide financial
support to tribal colleges, universities and technical institutes would
see none of the more than $30 million that Congress appropriated to them
this fiscal year under Bush's budget.
• The Native American Housing Block Grants program, which Congress
funded for $681 million this fiscal year, would see $54 million less
under the president's budget.
Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., sounded the alarm Monday about Bush's proposed
cuts to Indian programs.
"The President's budget ... ignores the treaty and trust responsibility
of the federal government," the senator said in a news release. "I will
use my seat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee to work to
restore these programs this year."
While Bush has never been considered a friend to Indian Country, it's
difficult to recall a time when the president has so blatantly shown his
disdain for Native people as he has in recent weeks.
Coupled with his threatened veto of the Indian Health Care Improvement
Act last month, Bush's proposed budget cuts can be seen as nothing less
than evidence of an Indian fighter displaying his true nature.
There was one project familiar to Indian people for which Bush proposed
Under his budget, the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada would
see an additional $108 million in funding for the next fiscal year. Long
opposed by tribes, the dump's elevated status in the Bush budget plan
further demonstrates the president's lack of sensitivity to tribal
On the bright side, the president's budget is likely to see drastic
changes before both Democratic-controlled Houses of Congress pass it.
And senators and congressional leaders friendly to Indians, like
Johnson, already have vowed to seek fewer cuts to much needed social
Kevin Abourezk, Oglala Lakota, is a reporter and editor at the Lincoln
(Neb.) Journal Star. He is a reznet assignment editor and teaches
reporting at the Freedom Forum's American Indian Journalism Institute.