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American Friends Service Committee Statement: Presidentís Katrina Promises Are Not Enough


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PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 19 -- Mary Ellen McNish, general secretary, or chief executive officer for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), an international social justice organization and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for humanitarian relief efforts, has issued the following response to President Bushís address to the nation:

We are encouraged that President Bush pledges to finally address the deadly impact of poverty, racism and economic injustice in the United States.

Hurricane Katrina blew the cover off poverty and racism, and Americans were shocked that the reality of who we are does not match our beliefs about ourselves. But years of tax breaks for the wealthy and the costs of war have robbed us of programs that help people with shelter, food, job training, and health care, as well as our ability to respond to emergencies and build and maintain an essential infrastructure.

Those of us who are most vulnerable -- the poor, the elderly, minorities and immigrant communities -- have borne the brunt of the hurricaneís wrath. However, we must not pit the needs of Katrina evacuees against the many thousands who are also in dire need of affordable housing and health care, food security, decent schools and other basic necessities of life.

We must not only provide the charitable emergency response to those who have been stranded by this disaster, but also build a country where deep poverty and hunger are unknown and we have the world-class schools, health care, and economic opportunities for all that we wanted to believe we had.

To live up to the promise he made to America, the President should immediately cancel plans to cut $35 billion from Medicaid, food stamps and other programs that Hurricane Katrina evacuees and millions of others rely on to survive. Seventy billion in tax breaks to our nationís wealthiest people must be repealed. Efforts to privatize Social Security must come to an end.

This shared tragedy must set the nation on a new course.

Congress, the President, religious and community leaders and the public must forge a new resolve -- one that works to fight decades of disparity and injustice.

The President must urge Congress to approve a moral budget that adequately funds and promotes the Governmentís essential responsibility to provide for the common good. Hurricane Katrina showed us all too clearly what happens when we fail to meet that responsibility.

Backed by more than an 87-year history of humanitarian work, the American Friends Service Committee has provided crucial, life-saving assistance to people struggling for survival whether caught in the crossfire of war or suffering the horrors of earthquake or famine. AFSC was handpicked by Herbert Hoover to launch massive programs to feed millions of starving children in post-war Germany and provided assistance to Japanese-Americans to get them out of internment camps during World War II.

The Service Committee has regional offices in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, New York City, Pasadena, San Francisco, Cambridge, Mass.; Seattle, Wash., and in 22 countries of the world.

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.



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