Last week, Congress passed a two-week continuing resolution to fund the government while a compromise budget is reached and avoid a government shutdown. Since then, House Republicans have proposed a $61 billion in reckless budget cuts that will hurt our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and make economic recovery even more difficult.
No one denies the necessity of cutting government spending; our current economic situation demands it. But we need to cut in ways that are responsible — ways that will help to grow our economy while maintaining vital safety net programs for those who need them in these difficult times.
In fact, last December Democrats passed a continuing resolution that cut $41 billion from current year spending, and our current proposal calls for $6.5 billion in additional cuts. This approach will keep our nation financially solvent without sacrificing the investments towards recovery we have made in the last two years.
Republicans, however, don’t feel that these cuts are deep enough, and they have threatened to shut down the government to prove their point. Basing their cuts on ideology rather than responsibility, the GOP is taking aim at traditional political targets rather than finding the most effective savings.
Planned Parenthood, who provides a wide variety of family planning and preventative health services to low-income women, has been targeted for defunding on the premise that federal dollars could be used to pay for legal abortions (the Hyde Amendment specifically prohibits this). The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) heath and nutrition program and Head Start are also looking at massive cuts, putting the burden of the Republican proposal squarely on the shoulders of women and children.
Also on the chopping block are National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, proving that even Sesame Street is not immune from the Republican’s slash and burn budgeting.
Democrats have proposed cuts of our own — smart, surgical cuts that help take the waste out of government and provide real savings. We recently proposed a cut of $100 million dollars from the Defense Department budget. This $100 million didn’t go towards body armor or medical care for veterans, but rather, for advertising the National Guard by sponsoring a NASCAR race car. The Republicans rejected our proposal out of hand.
But now some of the leading economic voices in the country are saying what Democrats have been saying all along: the Republican cuts are simply too deep.
Mark Zandi, a former advisor to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, has released a report stating that the $61 billion in cuts proposed by the Republicans not only would do nothing to grow the economy, but it would actually slow economic growth by 0.5% this year, and 0.2% the following year. This slow down could lead to a loss of over 700,000 jobs at a time when our country needs to be creating jobs.
The investment firm Goldman Sachs released a similar report that calculates the economic slow down as a result of the Republican cuts at an even larger 2%.
And over 300 of the leading economics from universities across the nation have issued a letter calling on the Congress to maintain government investments and avoid the devastating cuts proposed by the Republicans.
When told of these possible negative outcomes to the Republican budget cuts, House Speaker Boehner responded by saying only, “So be it.”
700,000 lost jobs and slowed economic growth after two years of steady recovery, and the Republicans give us “so be it.”
Our nation needs real economic leadership to keep us moving forward, and we need to approach these budget cuts as a way to find valuable savings, not score political points.
As we move towards our March 18th deadline for the current continuing resolution, I hope that my colleagues across the aisle will listen to what experts across the country are telling them and compromise on a budget that will help trim expenditures while maintaining our investments in our future.
We deserve better than “so be it.”
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