MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS
MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924
Feed The War And The Rich On Backs of Poor
By Senator John Conyers, Jr.
On December 8, 2005, the Republican Leadership in the House of Representatives presented a new, modified federal budget for 2006 and beyond. The President and the Republican leadership are saying that the costs associated with rebuilding the communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina have driven up the national deficit to an unacceptable level. They claim that this new budget was necessary in order to "offset" these rebuilding costs. I voted against this budget proposal, below are my reason for doing so.
Misplaced and Uncompassionate Priorities
The proposed budget would cut funding for vital social services such as health care, child care, education, and veterans benefits. Spending for the war in Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, however, will remain intact. It would seem that the Majority has a double standard when it comes to spending the American taxpayers' money. Apparently, it is acceptable to drive up the deficit to unprecedented levels with tax cuts for the rich and for an ill advised war; yet, when Americans need help to recover from a natural disaster, budget "offsets" suddenly become necessary. In a cruel irony, the "offsets" are targeted at precisely the programs that Katrina's victims need most.
Cut are proposed in the following programs:
The budget proposal includes cuts to Medicaid of $13.4 billion over five years (when offset by $1.5 billion in new spending, creates a net cut of $11.9 billion, $3.3 million in Michigan alone). This legislation will also impose new premiums and cost sharing for many poor, mostly elderly, Medicaid beneficiaries, making it more expensive to visit a doctor or go to the hospital. For the first time, this bill allows health care providers to refuse care if a Medicaid recipient cannot afford the new co-payment.
Two new provisions will cut $844 million from the food stamp budget by taking food stamps away from 300,000 Americans and legal immigrants. Additionally, with these new cuts, over 40 states will opt to coordinate their eligibility rules so that families must now meet a separate income test specific to the Food Stamp Program which would cause an additional estimated 225,000 people to lose food stamps.
The budget proposal would double the hourly work requirement under TANF for parents of children under six, from 20 to 40 hours a week, but provide only $500 million in additional funding for child care over the next five years. Consequently, 100,000 children presently eligible will not receive child care assistance over the next five years.
In addition, under the increased work requirements, states' costs for child care will increase by an estimated $4.1 billion over the next five years. As a result, 270,000 children of low-wage working parents who are not on welfare will likely lose their child care assistance.
The proposed budget cuts 4.9 billion from child support enforcement programs. Reduced enforcement will decrease child support payments by $8 billion over the next five years and $21.3 billion over the next ten years, depriving many children of necessary assistance.
The proposal will cut $600 million in assistance for abused and neglected children who are in foster care, many of them with grandparents and other relatives. Unless states devote new resources to foster care, services will be cut, and caseloads will increase in a system that is already overburdened and under funded.
The new budget will cut $14.3 billion from federal student aid programs through 2010. At a time when federal student aid is not keeping pace with rising college costs, these budget cuts will make a quality college education even more expensive for students and families. Included in these cuts are nearly $8 billion in new charges to students and families that will raise the cost of their college loans. As a result of these cuts, the typical student borrower, already saddled with $17,500 in debt, will be forced to pay an additional $5,800 for his or her college loans.
Veterans Health Care
In a time when many American soldiers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan seriously wounded and with lifelong debilitating injuries, the Republicans' budget will cut more than $600 million dollars from the Department of Veterans Affairs, leaving nearly 100,000 veterans without health care services. While I am vehemently opposed to balancing the budget on the backs of America's middle and lower class, I acknowledge that the size of the current deficit is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. For that reason I support the Democratic alternative budget. This alternative would balance the budget by 2012, have a smaller deficit than the Republican budget every year, accumulate less debt, and wasted fewer resources on interest payments needed to service the national debt.
To read more about the Democratic Budget visit: www.house.gov/budget_democrats/analyses/ 06fact_sheets_for_budget_debate.pdf
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