Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
Republicans who rode the Tea Party’s coat tails into office in 2010 are vowing to cut $100 billion from domestic spending, but can they really do it?
According to the New York Times, the only parts of the budget that would be exempt from a potential 20 percent across-the-board would be the military, domestic security, and veterans.
What would this mean for us? Cuts in Medicare and Social Security, reduced revenue-sharing with the states, more lay-offs, fewer teachers, less healthcare, crumbling infrastructure, etc. How can anyone believe that this is a good idea? (And, don’t forget, the returning Republicans– like House-Speaker-elect John Boehner– were the ones lobbying hard for continued tax cuts for the rich just a few weeks ago.) From the Times…
The budget-cutting exercise is perhaps the biggest test facing the House Republicans as they seek to remain united and to keep faith with Tea Party members, many of whom remain suspicious of the party’s willingness to vote for deep spending cuts.
But if Republicans vote for the size and range of required cuts in education, law enforcement, medical and scientific research, transportation and much more, it would give Democrats political ammunition to use against them in swing districts.
Such reductions are sure to draw protests from governors and local officials, including Republicans, who are counting on federal money to help balance their budgets. Many business and farm groups likewise would oppose cuts in their subsidies. And many economists would argue that immediate federal spending cuts of this size, especially on top of cuts and layoffs in the cities and states, would threaten the economy’s recovery and offset any stimulus from the tax cut deal Republicans and Mr. Obama reached just weeks ago.
Yet conservative analysts say even more spending cuts are desirable. Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization, has outlined a plan for $343 billion in reductions, including cuts from corporate tax breaks and entitlement programs that are not in the portion of the federal budget that House Republicans are focusing on, the so-called nonsecurity discretionary spending.
“The difficulty for Republicans is that they’re concentrating their cuts in a small sliver of the budget,” Mr. Riedl said. “They should also be addressing large entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, which are the main source of our budget problems. Cutting $100 billion from these other programs isn’t just a matter of eliminating waste, fraud and abuse. It will involve real cuts in real programs.”…
The promise to cut $100 billion this fiscal year — in effect, taking government operations to 2008 levels — would mean cuts of more than 20 percent across the board from the $477 billion that Congress allocated for such programs in the 2010 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.
Such across-the-board cuts “would have very damaging implications for the long-term growth of the economy and the long-term future of our work force,” said Jacob J. Lew, Mr. Obama’s budget director. He is preparing the administration’s budget for the 2012 fiscal year, which would continue a three-year freeze of the same domestic spending at 2010 levels.
“If you look in areas like education, if it was applied across the board it would mean eight million students would have their Pell grants reduced by an average of $700,” Mr. Lew said. “You obviously could make policy not to do that, but then you’d have to save a lot of money somewhere else.”
A 20-percent cut also would mean 40,000 fewer teachers and school aides, he said, and big reductions in basic research, law enforcement and small business programs, among many others.
If the Republicans apply their promise literally, some programs would have to be scaled back even more because the government is already well into its fiscal year, so the cuts would have to be concentrated in a shorter period. The reductions would be about 30.6 percent, said James R. Horney, a former Congressional budget analyst who is now at the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“That would require very large layoffs or furloughs of federal employees,” Mr. Horney said, “as well as big reductions in grants to state and local governments and government purchases of goods and services — all of which would offset a good portion of the stimulus achieved in the tax compromise and threaten the recovery.”
In new rules that the House is expected to adopt when it convenes on Wednesday, Republicans will empower the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, to set limits for the various categories of domestic spending that are decided in the Appropriations Committee. That is more power than ever invested in a Budget Committee chief and a significant diminution in the appropriation panel’s traditional sway.
Initially, that would allow House Republicans to suggest what general areas the $100 billion would come from without identifying specific cuts.
“The reality of governing is different than the reality of campaigning, and it’s easier to throw out a number than it is to support it,” said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior strategist.
Maybe the impending budget battles will open the eyes of complacent Americans.