For more than a year, House Republicans have energetically worked to demolish vital social programs that have made this country both stronger and fairer over the last half-century. At the same time, they have insisted on preserving bloated military spending and unjustifiably low tax rates for the rich. That effort reached a nadir on Thursday when the House voted to prevent $55 billion in automatic cuts imposed on the Pentagon as part of last year’s debt-ceiling deal, choosing instead to make all those cuts, and much more, from domestic programs. If this bill were enacted, estimates suggest that nearly two million Americans would lose food stamps and 44 million others would find them reduced. The bill would eliminate a program that allows disabled older people to live at home and out of institutions. It cuts money that helps low-income families buy health insurance. At the same time, the House bill actually adds more than $8 billion to the Pentagon budget.
In all, the bill would cut $310 billion from domestic programs; a third of that comes out of programs that serve low- and moderate-income people. Other provisions would slash by half the budget of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was set up after the financial meltdown to protect consumers from predatory lending and other abuses, and reduce the pay of federal workers.
Fortunately, it will never be taken up in the Senate, where the majority leader, Harry Reid, has said it would “shred the social safety net in order to protect tax breaks for the rich and inflate defense spending.”
House Republicans are already claiming that this bill, along with the equally inhumane overall 2013 budget written by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, shows their seriousness in reducing the deficit and why they should keep control of the House in November. In fact, it does the opposite on both accounts — and serves as a reminder of their destructive priorities.
As a resolution to the debt-ceiling crisis, Republicans had already agreed to $109 billion a year in automatic spending cuts — half from defense, half from the domestic side — if lawmakers failed to agree to lower the deficit in more reasonable ways such as mixing targeted cuts with tax increases on the rich. Even Democrats who supported big defense cuts wanted them chosen carefully, not with the sequester’s cleaver. But Republicans refused to take that path when the supercommittee deliberated and now are trying to make all of the cuts on the domestic side.
In just one particularly destructive example, the bill would eliminate the social services block grant, a $1.7 billion fund that is given to the states to help people struggling the hardest. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the fund provides services to 23 million people, including Meals on Wheels and other programs that help older Americans. It also helps pay for child care assistance, foster care and juvenile justice at a time when states are cutting back these programs.
House Democrats offered [ http://democrats.budget.house.gov/press-release/van-hollen-offers-democratic-alternative-replace-sequester ]an alternative bill that would replace the $109 billion sequester by raising taxes on the wealthy, ending oil company tax loopholes and cutting farm subsidies, but it was rejected. Republicans are determined to protect millionaires and defense contractors, no matter the costs to the country.
House Approves $310 Billion in Cuts, but Passage in the Senate Is Very Unlikely (May 11, 2012)
House Bill Offers Aid Cuts to Save Military
pending (May 8, 2012)