Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A conscientious federal spending plan?

Legislators left the Capitol for Easter break and advocates for the poor are still reeling as a House of Representatives Budget Resolution tears apart social safety-net programs and creates new tax benefits for the wealthy.

Led by Paul Ryan, the House of Representatives approved the spending budget for 2014 and beyond, setting limits to what the federal government’s contribution to domestic programs would be by “block-granting” set funding amounts to states.  This is troublesome because it means the loss of states’ ability to meet actual need for healthcare, housing, employment, and food assistance - especially at a time when the economy is still trying to recover and millions are still out of work.

Ryan’s proposal makes even steeper cuts to domestic programs (than what is called for) in the Budget Control Act of 2011.  This would require deep automatic cuts to programs beginning in 2013 if an alternative proposal is not agreed upon by President Obama and Congress.   What’s even more troubling about the House proposal is it creates new lower tax brackets for the super-rich and slashes corporate tax rates for companies.  The Coalition on Human Needs is projecting automatic spending reductions will cut many low-income programs by 20% or more, including  job training, WIC, housing, and more. 

The House Budget Resolution would also repeal the Affordable Care Act meaning an additional 30 million people uninsured.  By 2050, the federal government would almost entirely be out of the social safety-net business aside from Social Security, defense, and some healthcare.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently likened Paul Ryan’s approach to conservative Grover Norquist’s vision in an interview on NPR where he related, “I don’t want to abolish government.  I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”  The vision for a limited government does not take into consideration the impact of what suddenly pulling the rug out from under millions of Americans – now, and in the long-term will do.  Many experts have acknowledged what is needed is a balanced approach to recovery, including revenue increases, so millions of Americans can continue receiving assistance as the economy struggles to recover. 

President Obama has also put forth a spending plan to achieve deficit reduction over many years, acknowledging the important role safety-net programs play in recovery and people’s day-to-day lives.  If no agreement is reached with Congress, the automatic cuts would go into effect in FY 2013 and by conservative estimates:
·        75,000 children would not be able to receive Head Start services
·        25,000 children could not receive child care assistance
·        17,000 seniors would no longer receive Meals on Wheels
·        12,200 people couldn’t get vital AIDS drugs
·        460,000 special education students would receive fewer or no services
·        1.3 million college students would lose or face reductions in their supplemental education

·        734,000 households would no longer receive help paying for their home heating or air conditioning

It is imperative that we work with our own congressional leaders and urge them to adopt a proposal that does not hurt those things we care deeply about.  America’s social safety-net is a critical component of our economy and its programs are a part of how we all live.  Without federal assistance and guidance, states will be more likely to end critical programs or reduce them to such a level that millions will remain (or become) homeless, hungry, unemployed, and sick. 

We can do much better than the Ryan plan to gradually reduce our deficit through a plan acknowledging the important role the federal government continues to play in stabilizing the economy  - and assuring all children and all families have a bright future. 

The Ryan message is not representative of who we are and what we want to be as a nation.