Surprise! Bush budget sucks for women

The fiscal year 2007 budget cuts funding for almost every program with "women" in the title.

By Page Rockwell
Published February 10, 2006 8:41PM (EST)

If you've skimmed President Bush's $2.77 trillion budget for fiscal year 2007 and felt your eyes glaze over, that's understandable. The thing is a morass of jargon and seven-digit numbers, and the defunding of social programs to boost the defense budget is depressing. Much more useful, if still disheartening, is this primer from Women's Policy Inc., comparing various programs' funding levels with their funding in recent years. We've reviewed it carefully, and it seems safe to guess that the Bush administration applied the following rule of thumb when writing the budget: If the title of the program has the word "women" in it, cut funding.

Among the programs for women that are getting reduced funding this year: the Violence Against Women Act Prevention and Prosecution programs (cut by $29.5 million); the United Nations Development Fund for Women (funding slashed by more than two-thirds, from $2.5 million to $1 million); the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau (cut by $460,000); the Small Business Administration's Women's Business Centers (cut by $500,000); the Public Health Service's Office on Women's Health (cut by $72,000); the National Women's Business Council (cut by $7,000); and the Women's Educational Equity Act programs (eliminated entirely, after being funded at $2.96 million last year). And while the National Domestic Violence Hotline will get the same funding it got in 2006 ($3 million), the budget for actual battered women's shelters will get its budget trimmed by $1 million.

(There are a few bright spots for women in the Bush budget: It proposes $7.3 million for a Women's Justice and Empowerment initiative to prevent violence against women in Africa, while funding for programs to prevent human trafficking would be more than doubled to $8.5 million. Plus, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, part of whose mission is to encourage empowerment of women, got an extra $10 million.)

Another word the administration seems to have looked for when seeking places to cut funds: "family." The budget will reduce funding for the following family programs: Office of Child Support Enforcement (cut by $900 million); international family planning programs (cut by $138 million); Title X, the nation's family planning program (cut by $3 million); the Adolescent Family Life program (cut by $740,000); and the William F. Goodling Even Start Family Literacy programs (eliminated entirely, after being funded at $100 million last year). The United Nations Population Fund would get $25 million, $9 million less than last year -- though that doesn't necessarily matter much in any immediate sense, since "the administration has blocked the release of all UNFPA funds in fiscal years 2002 through 2005," and it's unclear whether the fund will get this year's money, either, unless the U.S. and the U.N. can resolve their disagreement over funding abortion services.

In FY 2007, $250 million will be provided for programs to support healthy marriages and responsible fatherhood -- which is good news, but in order to find that funding, the budget took money away from other family assistance funds, notably the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families high performance bonus and the Out-of-Wedlock Birth Reduction bonus.

In the preamble to this "economic blueprint," the president calls the budget "compassionate." There, don't you feel better?

Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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