In a Feb. 23 conference call, White House senior administration officials and reporters from Asian Pacific American media discussed President Obama’s 2012 federal budget, and its impact on the APA community. A common theme throughout the messages from the three participating senior officials was the plan to “position Americans to win the future by out-educating, out-innovating, and out-building the rest of the world.”
With this year’s deficit projected to hit a record, $1.6 trillion, President Obama hoped to have laid out a path for bringing down annual deficits to more sustainable levels over the rest of the decade.
Chris Lu, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary, expressed that while the budget cuts proposed in the 2012 budget are not preferred, if the country wants to “win the future,” they must cut on programs they can no longer afford. The budget, Lu said, will help put the nation on the path “to live within our means so we can invest in our future.”
Lu also said a key part of “winning that future” are found in the country’s immigrants who are “key drivers to new business.” Ginger Lew, White House National Economic Council senior advisor, said the budget encourages lending to small businesses and expands tax incentives to economically distressed areas with growth potential, which will support the entrepreneurial spirit of APAs. The budget also includes helping minority-owned businesses globalize their business models, another opportunity to help reposition the U.S. as a world economic leader.
A part of the recipe to regain the country’s competitive edge is in education, said Kiran Ahuja, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders director. She expressed that the APA community has a compelling duality when it comes to education. APAs are known to have the highest proportion of educational attainment and college degrees. However, there are unique needs. Fifty percent of today’s APA college students are attending community college, she said; and ten percent of those report a significant financial need. One in four study with English as a second language or are not linguistically proficient. The next generation will include more low-income students who will be the first in their families to enroll in college. To meet these unique challenges, Ahuja said in the fiscal year 2012 budget, over $5 billion will be allocated for Pell grants and there will be significant efforts to recruit more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) teachers.
The president’s budget, released on Feb. 14, invests in training and recruiting more and better teachers to serve students, but what of investing in the seniors of the community who continue to contribute to the country? The National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) said the new budget calls for a 45 percent cut on their Senior Community Service Education Program (SCSEP) – the only employment and training program focused on low-income older adults.
The president’s budget, for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, would cut spending for an array of domestic programs, including community services and environmental protection, and reduce the Pentagon’s previously proposed budget by $78 billion over five years. At the same time, it would make room for spending increases for education, infrastructure, clean energy, innovation, as well as research.
The learn more about the budget and how it could impact you, go to:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget. A detailed, visual chart is available.