Posted on | November 28, 2012 | 18 Comments
In terms of newsworthiness, it might be a clever idea to have, say, Brad Pitt and Anne Hathaway stage a naked protest in Harry Reid’s office, demanding action to reduce out-of-control federal spending. On the other hand, it’s hard to see the logic of sending out a bunch of ugly freaks to harass John Boehner about their pet boondoggle:
Seven naked protesters swarmed the office of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Tuesday for some 20 minutes of loud chanting against cuts to AIDS funding.
Among their chants: “Boehner, Boehner, don’t be a dick, budget cuts will make us sick.” And: “Fight AIDS. Act up. Fight back.” And: “End AIDS with the Robin Hood tax, no more budget cuts on our back.” And: “Budget cuts are really rude, that’s why we have to be so lewd.”
The ugly freaks got a blip of publicity that didn’t do much to explain what they were actually protesting about. However, one photo showed a protester with the phrase “Fund HOPWA” painted on his torso, and a bit of Googling identifies the acronym: Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS, a 20-year-old program under the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), with a budget of more than $300 million a year.
Exactly why the federal government has a program to provide housing for AIDS sufferers but not, say, people with herpes or chlyamida, can only be explained in terms of identity politics. Over the past 30 years, clever organizers have succeeded in making AIDS a propaganda sledgehammer with which to bludgeon politicians. “AIDS funding” includes a vast category of government spending, of which HOPWA is a classic example, that is considered sacrosanct because anyone who doesn’t support it will be slammed as a heartless homophobe. In September, the White House released a report from the Office of Management and Budget describing plans for budget sequestration:
According to page 98 of the very official and incredibly dense report, HOPWA is slated to lose 8.2% of its funding, or $27 million should the sequestration take place. In very real terms, since HUD calculated that for every $1 million of funding, 192 households are served, the sequester would mean the loss of housing assistance to 5,184 households. In addition, outside of HOPWA reductions, according to calculations from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “More than 185,000 households would lose their tenant-based rental assistance vouchers, 92,400 households would lose their project-based rental assistance housing, and 145,900 people would be remain homeless, instead of being housed under the Homeless Assistance Grant program. In addition, more than 140,000 currently housed households that include an elderly person or a person with a disability would receive reduced unit maintenance and lower levels of supportive services in units funded by Section 202 Housing for the Elderly or Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities.”
In other words, it’s about money — tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded grants — and the people who get that money are insisting that they won’t give up one red cent of it, despite the fact that the federal government is headed toward bankruptcy. As far as I’m concerned, HOPWA belongs in the same “Stuff We Can’t Afford Anymore” category as Big Bird and the National Endowment for the Arts.
BTW, apologies to anyone mystified by my 24-hour absence from the Internet. Don’t believe those crazy rumors that I was arrested for staging a naked protest against federal funding for Auburn University.