Early Saturday February 19 the House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 1)
that would cut federal spending by $61 billion. The cuts come mainly in programs dedicated to assistance for vulnerable populations in the U.S. and internationally.
You can let your Senators know that this approach to the budget is neither responsible nor just.
Together, these two areas of the budget represent just 15 percent of U.S. spending. Although the same legislation requests a defense budget 3 percent lower than the President’s 2011 request, it is still $8 billion higher than 2010 levels. Defense spending represents over 50 percent of U.S. discretionary (not mandatory) spending.
The math is questionable: how can we address the deficit without addressing the most expensive portion of the budget? Even beyond military spending, H.R. 1 fails to adequately address a number of root causes of the nation’s deficit.
Some root causes of the deficit include:
- Although military spending is half of the discretionary budget, is not audited and has a history of going over budget, its budget would increase over 2010 levels.
- The nation’s deficit is a reflection of spending and revenue (how much money is taken in). However, not only have tax cuts for the wealthy been extended beyond expiration, the new House of Representatives has made it a rule that new or existing programs cannot be paid for by tax increases nor by closing tax loopholes. (They can cut spending but not bring in more revenue.)
- Large entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare will see further strain. In order to ensure they continue to work for the aging population, they must be addressed with care, not cut recklessly.
- Although health care costs are rising, they would be addressed by certain provisions in the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., health care reform passed last year). The House continues to work to repeal this law piece-by-piece.
Some cuts in H.R. 1:
- cuts the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program by $747 million, a program which provides nutrition counseling and food to pregnant and new mothers, infants and children under 5 who are at nutritional risk. This may make 2010 the first year since 1997 that all eligible applicants will not be able to receive benefits.
- cuts the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development by $5.7 billion, including a 66% reduction in the funds for housing for the elderly, a 70% cut for housing for individuals with disabilities and a 40% cut for the public housing capital fund – all during a time when HUD predicts an historic increase in the number of families most susceptible to becoming homeless.
- cuts all funding for programs which mentor children of prisoners, increasing the likelihood that they will become prisoners themselves, and decreases funding for juvenile justice by 191.1 million, including alternative options for youth in prison. The bill also decreases funding for the reintegration of ex-offenders into society by 108.5 million.
- cuts several key programs that fight AIDS, malaria and hunger overseas by 40 percent
- eliminates a fund to allow the U.S. government to respond quickly to crisis situations overseas
- eliminates funding for resources that would provide housing for more than 161,000 individuals who are currently experiencing homelessness, including 10,000 vouchers for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing.
Without addressing the root causes of the deficit, the focus of cuts has become those programs which are not mandatory spending (like Social Security and Medicare) and are non-security. The majority of cuts have gone to the 15 percent of the budget committed to helping those in poverty in the U.S. and internationally.
Cutting a budget in this manner means that the country will continue to support programs that have caused the deficit, while reducing funding for programs (and, therefore, people), who contribute to the financial viability of the nation. Cutting human needs programs will create fewer jobs and have a smaller economic return than increasing military spending.
What’s more, communities that are more vulnerable now because of poverty will bear a disproportionate burden in the name of deficit reduction, while wealthy individuals will see relatively little impact. Economic disparities will continue, and generations will struggle even harder to get out of poverty.
The Senate should reject H.R. 1 as it stands, responsibly address the root causes of the deficit and maintain support for vulnerable populations by reducing existing poverty.
More resources on the budget include:
Heart where our treasure is, by Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach (Mennonite Weekly Review, Feb 28 issue)
The Budget is a Moral Document, by Christina Warner (Third Way Cafe, Feb 18)
10 Reasons Why Congress Should Cut the Pentagon Budget, Friends Committee on National Legislation
What could this funding pay for?
- Turning Toward Peace, a brief video from MCC US
- Infographic: Tax Breaks vs. Budget Cuts, from the Center for American Progress