Budget cuts hurt the poor and middle class
Published November 22, 2005

The human cost of Hurricane Katrina is hard to measure. We were all shocked by what we saw on our TV screens during that first horrible week. The economic costs of the hurricane have not yet been fully accounted for, but the government is planning to spend around half a trillion dollars on the effort. Coincidentally, this is roughly the same amount we have spent on the war effort in Iraq, an effort that shows no signs of becoming less expensive either in terms of blood or treasure.

Surely this is a time for all Americans to sacrifice. Surely, with our national debt ballooning out of control, to levels that even Ronald Reagan at the height of his Cold War arms race did not imagine, we might consider raising taxes. That’s what a rational person would think. Just as you or I would eventually run aground if we continually spent more than we earned, the United States cannot continue to run massive budget deficits, year after year.

But that’s what we’re going to do. Well, unless, that is, some House Republicans have their way and cut almost every program that benefits the poor and middle class in this country. Their savings? About half a trillion dollars over 10 years, ironically not nearly enough to balance the budget anyway. By rolling back the tax cuts of the last 5 years only for the richest 1% of Americans, we could bring in 80% of that amount, nearly 400 billion dollars. Eliminating unnecessary military programs, including missile defense and new nuclear weapons could save another 200 billion dollars.

Crazy talk, I know. Raise taxes on the rich? That’s un-American! Why, most of us will probably be in that 1% someday. We’d only have to have a net worth of over 100 million dollars. That’s $100,000,000. If there’s even one person reading this article who has that much money, I’d love to hear from you. Surely you could part with a bit of it, right?

No, no, no. Instead, our good Republicans in the House of Representatives have suggested that we buckle down and face tough economic reality. Translation: make the little guy pay even more.

For what programs does the wonderfully titled “Operation Offset” either reduce or eliminate funding? The whole list would take up too much room, so we’ll have to do a partial one: Steep cuts to Medicare; reduction or elimination of international AIDS programs, international development programs, and the Peace Corps; elimination of funds for the National Science Foundation Math and Science Program, NASA’s Mars/Moon initiative, grants for energy conservation, the Energy Star Program, the Science to Achieve Results program, and community and neighborhood development funds.

We’re just getting started! Eliminate funds for the District of Columbia (Washington D.C., our nation’s capital, which is falling into a state of disgraceful disrepair), for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, for the National Endowment for the Arts, for the National Endowment for Humanities, and for the Legal Services Corporation (which provides legal assistance to the poor).

There’s so much more here. Programs to have funding cut (not completely eliminated) include: subsidized school lunches, water quality, Forest Service capital improvements, the Federal Aviation Administration (the people who make sure planes don’t crash into each other), and the Federal Building Fund. Oh, and we’ll also cut federal subsidized loans for graduate students, because heaven knows we don’t need more educated people in this country. Enough scientists already! What do those egg-heads know anyway?

This list is not, by any means, exhaustive. So many things are being cut, I don’t think anyone will look through the list and not find something they like that would go the way of the Dodo. So, while prices for virtually everything go up, and all of our wages stagnate, we’ll be faced with fewer services, reduced services, and more of the kind of corner cutting that led to the flooding of New Orleans in the first place.

And we won’t see a tax cut in return—no sir! Those of use with the least money will continue to bear the burden of heaviest taxation. Allow me to cut off another line of debate: that taxes of over 50% on the super-rich are unfair. That’s a ridiculous assertion. Even people who make “only” $1 million a year (far from the richest 1%) would still take home $500,000 after taxes. Why would they need more than that? I can’t possibly think of why anyone, anywhere, would need more money than that to maintain their household and family.

Many of these budget cuts have just been passed by the House. Luckily, cooler minds prevailed in the Senate budget, though a lengthy negotiation between the two houses of Congress on the final bill could yield a variety of results. If these programs or others like them are things for which you think your tax dollars are worth spending, contact your representatives. Tell them you’re not willing to sacrifice valuable initiatives so their rich friends can buy another yacht.