(By Mark McCutchan)
Liberal bloggers were briefed Monday by White House advisor David Plouffe on details of the President’s budget proposal (Winning Progressive was not invited). Despite cuts to Pell grants, heating assistance, community organizations and other parts of the safety net, the response by progressives was muted. Republicans, on the other hand, said through House budget chair Paul Ryan that the budget proposal is an “abdication” [of responsibility] – “the President punted on the budget and the president punted on the debt.”
The Republican Party has found a politically winning theme in promoting fiscal responsibility through an arbitrary goal of $100 billion in budget reductions, although polls show it is not a winning theme once they have to identify specific cuts.
Some of their proposed cuts for the last 7 months of this fiscal year:
$1300 million from Community health centers
$1008 million from Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC)
$1111 million from investments in Science
$1200 million from FEMA
$1800 million from EPA clean water and drinking water efforts
$900 million from the Centers for Disease Control
$899 million from Energy efficiency and renewable energy
The GOP seems to want Americans hungry, sick and ignorant – unable to compete in the global economy. These cuts are in stark contrast to the $450 million earmark that House Speaker John Boehner has protected for his home district – it would pay for engine development for the Joint Strike Fighter that the Department of Defense doesn’t even want.
Cutting discretionary spending will do little to reduce the deficit, it will hurt lower and middle income families, and it threatens the extremely fragile economic situation. “Cutting your way to economic health” also reinforces the conservative frame that “the federal government wastes your money”.
We would like to support the President in his efforts to improve the economy, but he is following the bad advice of his political advisors, who think he can triangulate his way out of the deficit issue. His emulation of the GOP by cutting taxes and the domestic budget is a game he cannot win – they will always demand more cuts. The president had the solution in January, when he called for major investment in 21st Century infrastructure, during his State of the Union address.
The progressive response to the President’s budget proposal was a bad one, too – if we don’t get angry and loud when someone says they will take our lunch money, we’re going to have some mighty hungry days ahead.
The real focus for achieving economic recovery should be a comprehensive plan tackling the revenue and expenditure ends:
- Promote job growth to increase income tax revenues, through investment in infrastructure, and repeal/renegotiation of free trade agreements
- Cut defense spending by reducing our role as the world’s policeman
- Remove agricultural, fossil fuel and all other corporate subsidies
- Rein in health care costs, through improvements on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and promotion of healthier lifestyles
- Ask the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share again. Tax revenues are currently at 9% of GDP, which is half of the average in post-WWII America.
- Apply the Social Security tax to all income, rather than just the first $90,000.
- Grant legal status and eventual citizenship to more immigrants, so that we have more young people paying into Social Security and Medicare.
More ideas for deficit reduction are in the ThinkProgress piece here.
President Franklin Roosevelt once said in response to a progressive proposal, “I agree with you, I want to do it – now make me do it.” Likewise, we need to support President Obama’s inspiring State of the Union vision – contact the President, your representatives, and write letters to the editor of your newspapers and encourage them to soundly reject cuts in the federal budget that would hurt America’s middle class, working class, and poor.
Here are links for submitting letters to the editor for national papers, and to newspapers in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
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