Mr. President, in the Shakespearean tragedy that is politics in this century, you have introduced irony. You have abandoned the network of anti-poverty programs that were the vehicle for the implementation of the War on Poverty, spawned by the same civil rights movement that kicked open the doors that were closed to so many. Among those doors were the doors to the White House into which you so gallantly strode. It was an honor to be seated near to the likes of Tom Hanks, James Taylor and so many other hopelessly idealistic Americans who celebrated your election at your Inaugural Address, an address that, until today, was posted on my office door.
I wonder to whom you listened when you bought the idea that decimating the network of Community Action Agencies like Community Action was a good idea. Was it the thousands of families with children whose homelessness we staunched? Was it the hundreds of non-profits that get much of their food to feed hungry people through us? Was it the scores of businesses that have gotten training and microloans through our subsidiaries? Was it the thousands of families whose homes are better insulated? Was it the thousands of families who bought their first home because of us?
This story drips irony. In your eloquent State of the Union Address, you laid out an agenda. Reading it, I wonder whether you wondered who would implement much of it. Here in the Lehigh Valley, which threw Pennsylvania your way in 2008, that would be, yes, the Community Action Lehigh Valley.
You talked about foreclosures, which are the ball and chain that will continue to choke recovery. Here in the Lehigh Valley, it is, ironically, the Community Action Agency that is saving families from foreclosure. In fact, the area’s entire system was conceived and now operated by us. (For that matter, this agency fought, often alone, the predatory lending that brought us this calamity in the first place.)
You talked about green jobs. Here in the Lehigh Valley, it is, ironically, the Community Action Agency that operates the entire weatherization system for the utilities and, yes, the federal programs in which you have invested massive amounts. Moreover, our housing rehab programs are also focused on green.
You talked about access to credit. Here in the Lehigh Valley, it is, ironically, the Community Action Agency that operates microenterprise training programs and makes loans to people our banks can’t touch. And our portfolio is strong. It is, ironically, the Community Action Agency that works with banks to ensure credit flows to historically credit-starved residents and their neighborhoods.
In literature, irony can be funny. In life, in your budget proposal, it is sad. How can you, of all political leaders, abandon all of this? Is this a cynical bone you have tossed to the radical right? Our friends and partners include most of the people who care to make a difference in their community. It includes your base, yes, but it also includes some of the most prominent business leaders of the region. We have gained their support because we are innovative, because we are usually the first to understand and confront local problems, and because we are effective. And we’re cheap, spending only 7.6% on administrative costs. And you would abandon it.
Mr. President, we are also fighters. I love a good fight. But I never expected I would be fighting you. Ah, the irony.