'Bombs over Bread': GOP-Controlled House Passes Austerity Budget

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Common Dreams

'Bombs over Bread': GOP-Controlled House Passes Austerity Budget

House OKs cuts to social programs to aid Pentagon

by
Common Dreams staff

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during a news conference as he unveils "The FY2013 Budget - The Path to Prosperity" with members of the House Budget Committee at Capitol Hill in Washington March 20, 2012. (REUTERS/Jose Luis Magana)

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday passed a 'reconciliation budget' that makes sweeping and what many termed 'devastating' cuts to social programs, including food assistance for children, federal retirement benefits for older workers, and medicaid programs for the country's most vulnerable.  Republican lawmakers justified those cuts by saying they were necessary to maintain a growing Pentagon and national security budget.

The Sequester Replacement Act was proposed by the GOP lawmakers to prevent automatic cuts to military spending. Agreed to last year during the debt-ceiling debate, those cuts would begin in January of 2013.

The budget passed Thursday, which was orchestrated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), was approved along party lines, 218-199, with all Democrats voting against the bill, joined by only 16 Republicans.  The package will be ill-received in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and the President has said he would veto such a bill if it reached his desk.

"This bill before us would create a government where there is no conscience, where the wealthy and well-connected are protected and enriched — and the middle class, the poor and the vulnerable are essentially forgotten." --Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)

"They are protecting the massive Pentagon budget with all its waste … and finding even deeper cuts in programs that benefit the people of this country," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. "This bill before us would create a government where there is no conscience, where the wealthy and well-connected are protected and enriched — and the middle class, the poor and the vulnerable are essentially forgotten."

"How do we reconcile more money for bombs while cutting money for bread?" asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). "The real deficit that we are dealing with here is a moral deficit, and it's time that we face the truth."

The Republican plan also cuts funding from financial regulatory reforms passed in 2010, cutting funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new regulatory agency despised by Republicans.

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Congressman Kucinich: Bread or Bombs?

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) released the following video in advance of yesterday's vote on the Sequestration Replacement Reconciliation Act which raids, among other domestic programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to fund the military budget.

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Association Press: House OKs cuts to social programs to aid Pentagon

Despite its austerity, the measure could actually increase the deficit in the near term by about $24 billion since its spending cuts would take effect over time while the automatic cuts are more immediate.

The butter-for-guns swap faces a veto threat from the White House, which says it "relies entirely on spending cuts that impose a particular burden on the middle class and the most vulnerable among us, while doing nothing to raise revenue from the most affluent."

Democrats are making it plain they expect any effort to turn off automatic spending cuts to include additional taxes. The resulting deadlock is highly unlikely to be resolved before Election Day.

The measure includes changes to the food stamp program through tighter enforcement of eligibility rules and would cut back a 2009 benefit increase, costing a family of four $57 a month. Federal workers would have to contribute 5% more of their pay toward pension plans that are more generous than most private sector workers receive.

Fully 25% of the cuts come from programs that benefit the poor, while cuts to Obama's health care overhaul also affect those with modest incomes, prevention funding and efforts by states to set up insurance exchanges.

A cut to the Social Services Block Grants, which Republicans say duplicates other programs, would hit programs like Meals on Wheels for the elderly, child care and child abuse prevention. Another provision opposed by most Democrats would deny illegal immigrants tax refunds from the $1,000-per-child tax credit — even though most of the children in question are U.S. citizens.

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Huffingon Post: Paul Ryan Budget: House Passes Bill To Spare Defense, Cut Food Aid, Health Care

Rather than decrease military spending, the plan reduces projected outlays elsewhere. The proposal, which emerged from the House Budget Committee chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Monday, would cut $83 billion in federal retirement benefits (equivalent to about a 5 percent pay cut), save $49 billion by capping medical malpractice lawsuits, slash about $48 billion from Medicaid programs and cut food aid by more than $36 billion.

"I am so sick and tired of the demonization of programs that benefit poor people in this country, especially the [food stamp] program," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) during the floor debate, noting that food stamps provide $1.50 per meal. "This is not some extravagant, overly generous benefit," he added. "Rather than cutting waste in the Pentagon budget, which we all know exists, you protect the Pentagon budget. You know, rather than going after subsidies for oil companies and going after billionaire tax breaks, you protect all that."

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that demand for food assistance will continue to grow through 2014.

"How do we reconcile more money for bombs while cutting money for bread?" asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). "The real deficit that we are dealing with here is a moral deficit, and it's time that we face the truth."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) accused the GOP of "whacking" the poor. He pointed to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office that found some 22 million households with children would lose aid to buy food, 300,000 children would be cut from school lunch programs, and 300,000 children would lose health insurance under the House plan.

Republicans "won't ask one penny more from people making over $1 million a year to help us reduce our deficit, not one penny," Van Hollen said. "The math is pretty simple after that. Because you ask nothing of them, your budget whacks everyone else."

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