April 9, 2015
Michael Palmieri, Radio Syndication Manager at Democracy at Work in conjunction with Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director of New Jersey Peace Action
2016 GOP Budgets Speaks Volumes
The House Budget committee has released its 2016 budget. Its title, "The Path to Prosperity," can be politely described as misleading. One could rightly point out the title is Orwellian in character, the word "Prosperity" can easily be supplanted by "Poverty".
The budget has been heralded for accomplishing a reduction of $5.1 trillion over the next 10 years without raising taxes. Glossed over is the fact that reductions from cuts to domestic social programs "lay at the heart of the deficit reduction program". Meanwhile, expenditures on the military have not only been left as is but will be increasing.
The budget slashes funding to Medicare, Medicaid, and SNAP (supplemental nutritional assistance program) along with other domestic programs. It also has legislative text that would amount to a repeal of the ACA (Affordable Care Act). These cuts comprise an austerity program, one based on the pauperization of poor, working, and middle-class families.
WHAT ARE OUR VALUES?
Representative Rob Woodall, Republican of Georgia, commenting on the budget, was quoted in The New York Times, "A budget is a moral document, it talks about where your values are." Woodall could not be more correct. Let us unearth the values we find in this document.
Nearly 16 million children live below the federal poverty line today (defined as a family of four living on $23,550 a year) and the amount of children ages 6-11 in poverty increased from 39% in 2007 to 45% in 2013. Think what you may about food stamps, 72% of recipients are poor households with children while 25% are seniors or adults with disabilities. Nevertheless, the 2016 budget will cut funding for SNAP by $40 billion over the next 10 years.
For many seniors already struggling to deal with medical bills and savings lost in the financial meltdown of 2008, the new budget proposes decreasing spending on Medicare by $913 billion in the next 10 years. The U.S. still spends more on healthcare than any other developing country. However, the new budget seeks to repeal the ACA, which would result in 37 million people becoming uninsured.
The U.S. is the most unequal developed nation and one of the most unequal nations in the entire world, yet neither plans to raise taxes on the highest income earners or to close corporate loopholes are included in the text. Indeed, the level of inequality we are now witnessing is greater than at any time since the Great Depression. Today, the top 1% of income earners captures 20% of all income and the top .1% own more than 1/5th of the wealth. Millions of Americans are still unemployed or working low-wage jobs, yet no jobs program was included.
Hubert Humphrey, the 38th Vice President of the United States, said in one of his last speeches to the nation, "The moral test of a government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped." Using his paradigm, the 2016 budget fails horribly on all counts.
SHRINKING GOVERNMENT, BUT WHICH PART?
The knee-jerk reaction from those who support slashing social programs while increasing military spending goes along these lines: "We need to protect the nation and shrink big government." To the first point, we already have a military apparatus capable of protecting our country, so large it feels the need to "protect" the rest of the world. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a global monitor on military spending, in 2012 the U.S. spent $652 billion on 'defense', more than the next 10 countries with the highest defense budgets combined! According to the same report China and Russia spent $200 billion and $100 billion respectively. Yes, there is government waste, but the parts that help feed and care for children, the elderly and the sick are not wasteful!
"Protecting" the nation need not be done solely by gunpoint. Surely good healthcare, food, jobs and access to medicine can achieve that much more efficiently. A report written by Heidi Garrett-Peltier at Brown University demonstrated that while each billion spent on the military creates 11,000 jobs, the same amount of funds would create 27,000 jobs in education or 17,000 in healthcare. The question then becomes, who is this budget protecting?