Originally created 08/27/03

Congressman: War costs threaten social programs



CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The ever-increasing cost of America's war on terrorism threatens social programs for millions, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., says.

"I'm concerned, big time," said Clyburn, the first black congressman elected in South Carolina since Reconstruction.

An analysis released by the Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday showed the nation is heading toward a record $480 billion deficit in 2004.

Clyburn said Monday the increasing cost of the war on terror threatens to erode the safety net of social programs for millions more Americans. He spoke outside a conference dealing with the impact of the war on social welfare policy.

Clyburn said he's worried that government policies are "squeezing out the middle class" while the rich gain.

A quarter-century ago, the richest 1 percent of Americans controlled less than 20 percent of the nation's wealth. Now they control more than 40 percent, he said.

Clyburn said he also is skeptical of President Bush's faith-based initiative which would allow churches to use federal dollars for social work.

One recent grant went to the Old North Church in Boston, from where Paul Revere began his famous ride in 1775. Clyburn said the grant blurs the distinction between social work and worship.

"That, to me, is where you are going to have chaos," he said. "You are tumbling into an abyss here."

For years, the federal government has allocated about 7 percent of the national budget to social programs - programs other than Medicare and Social Security.

That should continue, said Leon Ginsberg, interim dean of the University of South Carolina's School of Social Work.

But he said Washington is likely to pass new requests for funding to the states, which in turn have been pushing off funding to local governments or the private sector.

About 160 social workers and educators attended Monday's conference which was sponsored by the university's School of Social Work.