This has been a major week for the funding of children’s programs in the federal budget. We want to give you a breakdown of what is being debated and what you can do to fight some of the bad decisions many in Congress want to make.
On October 1st of last year, the fiscal year 2011 began. The Congress did not pass a budget funding government programs. Instead they passed what is known as a “continuing resolution” that funds programs at essentially the same level they were in 2010. This resolution will expire on March 4th. Congress needs to pass final legislation that will fund the government until September 30th of this year. The fiscal year for 2012 will begin on October 1st of this year.
What the Congress is Currently Considering
The House of Representatives recently proposed a series of cuts to the budget for this year. Last week we told you about how they proposed $32 billion in cuts – including to the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, the Women Infants and Children’s (WIC) program, community health centers, poison control centers, and other children’s programs. This was not enough for some members of the House, particularly those who associate with the conservative “Tea Party” movement. On Friday night, a day and time known by government officials as the best to release information that they know will get the least amount of media coverage, the Appropriations Committee offered an addition $42 billion in cuts. These include:
Many other children programs will be eliminated entirely. Some examples include:
The House could include even more cuts as they debate this resolution.
These cuts are wrong on many levels. They harm children at a vulnerable time in their development. The economy remains in recession and an all-time record number of children (14,567,000) currently live in poverty. Cuts like this would mean that 368,000 low income 3 and 4 year olds would lose the education and nutrition program they receive at their Head Start center. The education cuts, along with others being made in states, would leave thousands of teachers out of jobs this year. Many in Washington say these cuts are needed to reduce the deficit. However, these cuts would take only 2% off this year’s projected deficit. So essentially, these cuts harm children and don’t solve America’s fiscal challenges.
What You Can Do
Contact your member of the House and Senators and tell them you oppose these cuts and why. They will listen to you. The original House proposal included a $210 million cut to the Maternal and Child Block Grant. When they heard from people opposed to this, the Republicans reduced their cut to $50 million. Many are not fully supportive of all these cuts. When they reduce these cuts, they are showing just how much discomfort they have. Click here to contact your representatives. Some suggestions when you get a hold of someone in their office:
What Happens Next
Even if the House of Representative passes all of these cuts to the budget for this year, the Senate has their say as well. Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has slammed these cuts, saying “they would impede the federal government from completing even its most core functions.” President Obama has threatened to veto these cuts. This debate will continue throughout the year.
At some point, Congress will begin debating the budget for next year. This week, President Obama released his budget for 2012. Overall, it contains a small increase to children’s programs. Not all programs receive an increase. The President proposed cuts in juvenile justice, heating assistance for low-income families, and community service programs. He makes up for this with increases in Head Start, afterschool programs, child nutrition, child health, and education programs. We will let you know much more about this proposal for next year, but the main business in Washington is to fight the cuts the House want to make to children’s programs right now.Share on Facebook
Democracy Corps, a project of political consultants James Carville and Stan Greenberg, released a poll this week that shows voters strongly opposed to budget cuts being proposed by House Republicans. The chart below shows opposition to these cuts when voters learn about the impact on children, youth, women, and families.
How much more simple can this be? Voters do support the idea of cutting $32 billion from the federal budget in the abstract (50% favor-33% oppose). However, when they learn about specific cuts being proposed, support collapses. 50% are opposed (a gain of 17 points) with only 43% in favor. Voters need to know what the House Republican leadership wants to do. It is the only way to stop these stupid and short-sighted cuts.Share on Facebook
A program that helps low-income Americans afford energy, particular during the type of harsh winters many are experiencing in different parts of the country, is poised to be used as a political football. On Wednesday, the National Journal reported that President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget will cut several billion dollars from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The program would see funding drop by about $2.5 billion from an authorized 2009 total of $5.1 billion.
In 2010, Obama’s omnibus budget resolution assigned roughly $5 billion in LIHEAP grants for 2011. According to the National Journal, the rationale was that at a time of acute economic crisis and rising commodity prices, a little federal assistance to those in need was politically defensible.
On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee proposed a $400 million cut to the program. Both sides are playing silly political games with this program. Last year, when President Obama proposed a $1.8 billion cut to the program (from $5.1 billion in 2010 to a proposed $3.3 billion level) before agreeing to $5 billion in the omnibus spending bill that currently funds the government for this year. While the President is presenting this as a “tough cut” needed to show his intent to “control spending”, he is not offering anything different than he offered last year. And the House Republicans are offering $32 billion in budget cuts to “reduce the deficit”, cuts including the LIHEAP program, their plans reduces the deficit by less than 2% this year (a deficit slated to be $1.5 billion).
It is reasonable for America’s children and families to expect an honest debate about their needs and the government’s responsibility to provide services. Instead, they are getting spin and intellectual dishonesty from Washington DC where proposals have nothing to do with what they actually need and should expect to receive from their government. The proposals also do not accomplish what those proposing them say they will do. Expect this to continue throughout the year.Share on Facebook