-By John Lynds
U.S. Congressman Michael Capuano was at the East Boston Main Streets breakfast on Tuesday morning at Spinelli’s and took direct aim at his Tea Party colleagues in the House but also fired a few shots at the President for recommending cuts to Community Service Block Grants (CSBG) — a program that helps fund non-profit programs like Main Streets and community Fuel Assistance programs.
“We are at a crossroads in America,” explained Capuano at Tuesday’s breakfast. “We are at the point when we need to figure out what type of country we want to be.”
In a talk that touched on topics like universal health care, budget cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy, as well as Medicare and social security Capuano, who has long been a champion of the working class families of Eastie, said he does not like what he sees from some new members of the House — a direct jab at the Tea Party.
On health care, or Obama care as many who oppose universal health care call it, Capuano said he cannot understand the rational behind trying to reverse something that has been fought for and needed for decades in American society.
“Is universal healthcare perfect? No,” said Capuano. “But I invite anyone to sit in a hospital emergency room and look a three-year old girl in the face suffering from an asthma attack whose parents cannot afford health care and tell her she needs to go home.”
Capuano, the grandson of Italian immigrants who settled in Eastie from Italy said that no one in the room, rich or poor, has done everything in their lives without help from someone.
“Everyone here has had help along the way and you can not deny it,” said Capuano. “What I can’t understand is there is a movement now to try and take the safety and security that some who struggle to make ends meet get and let them sink or swim on their own and that’s not fair.”
The Tea Party has longed been opposed to social service programs that lawmakers like Capuano have championed and judging from Tuesday’s breakfast, the Congressman is not happy about it.
“Try to find me someone that remembers the days before social security and Medicare and ask them if they are better off now than when their grandparents and great grandparents were alive?” asked Capuano. “There was a time before these programs when children were expected to financially help aging and ailing parents and thank god that we have programs in place now that takes the financial burden from these working class people. But there are people in government now that want to go back to the way things used to be and going backwards is never a good idea.”
However, Capuano’s salvos were not just fired at Tea Party members but at the President Barack Obama as well who during his State of the Union address proposed millions of dollars of cuts to CSBG that help crucial programs like Fuel Assistance and Main Streets.
“Right now we are about to send millions of dollars to places in the U.S. that are being ravaged by natural disasters but I argue that while we don’t get floods, or tornados or hurricanes, our winter is a yearly natural disaster for thousands of residents here,” said Capuano. “I was blown away when the President put CSBG on the table because its telling hundreds, if not thousands here in Eastie struggling, that they might have to freeze this winter.”
Just two months after extending a tax cut for the wealthy, Obama slashed CSBG–a key source of federal funding that is used to help low-income families here in Eastie–by 50 percent back in January.
The cut has left East Boston APAC and parent company ABCD wondering about the future. APAC, whose office is responsible for running Fuel Assistance, Earned Income Tax Credit, Summer Works and Head Start programs, now has to take the cuts one day at a time and hope for the best.
“These are the people that need federal funding the most and I will fight for every penny of fuel assistance because no one should be told they have to be cold all winter,” said Capuano.
Capuano also answered questions from the audience on the budget process and other D.C. related matters.