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117 Civil Rights and Civic Organizations Issue Principles to Guide FY2012 Budget Negotiations
Low- and Moderate-Income Americans Should Not Bear the Burden of Reducing the Debt
WASHINGTON - May 24 - A coalition of 117 national civil rights and civic organizations has sent a letter to senators establishing five principles for ensuring that the Fiscal Year 2012 budget and debt limit deals address the nation’s debt in a fair, equitable, and responsible manner.
In the letter, the coalition expresses concern about the inadequacy and unfairness of current budget proposals, stating that:
“[Congress]…has the potential to either improve our overall economic situation or make matters even worse. Some of the proposals that we have seen to date are overly simplistic and would, in reality, do little to solve our budgetary problems. Others are simply draconian.”
The letter lays out five principles that the coalition urges the Senate to follow as budget negotiations unfold:
- Congress must reject global federal spending caps or entitlement caps;
- Any deficit reduction agreement, as well as any budget enforcement mechanism, must rely at least as much on revenue increases as on spending cuts;
- The burden of deficit reduction must not be borne by low- and moderate-income individuals;
- Congress must reject any effort to impose a Constitutional balanced budget amendment; and
- Congress must protect investments that are vital to our nation’s economic advancement.
“Our coalition understands that deficit reduction is an important long-term goal for the nation,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “But it cannot be accomplished without putting revenues on the table. Otherwise, the burden of reducing the debt will be laid at the feet of low- and moderate-income Americans and jeopardize a still-sluggish economic recovery.”
The text of the letter with a full list of its signatories is below.
May 24, 2011
COALITION STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES FOR FY 2012 BUDGET AND DEBT CEILING NEGOTIATIONS
The undersigned 117 organizations represent persons of color, women, children, low- to moderate-income workers, people with disabilities, consumers, elders, people of faith, English language learners, LGBT people, educators, and many other Americans. Together, we have formed a coalition that is extremely concerned with the ongoing state of negotiations over the Fiscal Year 2012 budget. We write today to present you with a list of principles that our coalition believes are essential to address as the budget discussions move forward.
As Congress focuses attention on reducing our federal budget deficits, it has the potential to either improve our overall economic situation or make matters even worse. Some of the proposals that we have seen to date are overly simplistic and would, in reality, do little to solve our budgetary problems. Others are simply draconian.
As Congress continues its negotiations over the debt ceiling and the FY 2012 budget, we urge you to adhere to the following principles:
- Congress must reject global federal spending caps or entitlement caps. The Corker-McCaskill proposal limits spending to 20.6 percent of GDP, and would require massive cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other programs that meet critical needs of low- and moderate-income people and provide vital economic security for millions of Americans. In fact, under the Corker-McCaskill caps, federal spending on essential programs would be cut roughly as much as the recently-passed House Republican budget by the end of this decade. At the same time, by focusing only on spending, global spending cap proposals would protect tax breaks for millionaires and tax subsidies for corporations. Any cap on mandatory spending should be opposed. In addition, Congress should reject multi-year appropriations caps that force harsh reductions in domestic/human needs services.
- Any deficit reduction agreement, as well as any budget enforcement mechanism, must rely at least as much on revenue increases as on spending cuts. If revenue increases are not included, deficit reductions will have to come from spending cuts alone, requiring cuts similar to those in the House Republican (Ryan) budget proposal, and restricting the federal government’s ability to respond to economic downturns and limiting economic opportunity. That, in turn, would increase the likelihood that the fragile recovery will falter and could result in another recession. Related to this, any budget enforcement mechanism must include an automatic waiver during economic downturns or periods of unusually slow economic growth.
- The burden of deficit reduction must not be borne by low- and moderate-income individuals. As our nation’s economy continues to struggle toward full recovery, unemployment remains unacceptably high, and there is a dire need to put people back to work. As a result of the housing crisis, countless numbers of Americans have lost their most valuable asset, forcing them to start their climb up the economic ladder all over again. A large aging population is gradually leaving the workforce and will become increasingly reliant on the promises made, decades ago, by programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Proposals such as the House-passed Republican budget or the Corker-McCaskill caps would harm those Americans precisely when they need help the most. Other vital services and programs, such as food stamps (the “SNAP Program”), education, Head Start, child care, jobs programs and low-income housing would also face drastic cuts under these proposals. Any budget plan must protect low- and moderate-income people and must not make programs that support them subject to automatic cuts if Congress fails to meet budget targets. Indiscriminate cuts to these programs will jeopardize the health, economic security, and education of millions of Americans. We will fail to get the economy back on track, and an even heavier burden will fall on states that are already struggling to meet the needs of vulnerable populations.
- Congress must reject any effort to impose a Constitutional balanced budget amendment. Some members have proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would require a balanced budget every year, regardless of the state of the economy. This is an extremely draconian and unwise proposal that would require the largest budget cuts or tax increases precisely when the economy is at its weakest, tipping a struggling economy into a recession and keeping it there for a protracted period of time. It would also require massive cuts to vital programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. It should be resoundingly opposed by lawmakers as a free standing proposal or as an element of raising the debt ceiling.
- Congress must protect investments that are vital to our nation’s economic advancement. Some proposals would gut badly-needed investments in our public infrastructure, education and job training, scientific research and development, and other programs that develop and bolster the competitiveness of American businesses. These cuts are being proposed at exactly the wrong time: unemployment remains high, investment in the U.S. economy is currently at its lowest level in four decades, and productivity growth is lagging far behind previous recoveries from economic recession. If there is one point on which all economists can agree, it is that investment – in infrastructure, research and innovation, and worker productivity – is absolutely essential to getting people back to work in the short term and ensuring that our economy grows in the long run.
Thank you for your consideration.
9to5, National Association of Working Women
All Education Matters
Alliance for Retired Americans
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
American Network of Community Options and Resources
The Arc of the United States
Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice
Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Campaign for America’s Future
Campaign for Community Change
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)
CFED, Corporation for Enterprise Development
Children’s Defense Fund
Cities for Progress, Institute for Policy Studies
Coalition on Human Needs
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Committee for Education Funding
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Community Action Partnership
Direct Care Alliance
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
Equal Justice Society
Family Equality Council
Food Research and Action Center
Friends of the Earth
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
Health & Disability Advocates
Health Care for America Now
International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)
Japanese Americans Citizens League
Jewish Funds for Justice
Jewish Labor Committee
Latinos for a Secure Retirement
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
League of Women Voters of the U.S.
Mental Health America
Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund (MBELDEF)
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc.
National AIDS Housing Coalition
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum
National Association for Children's Behavioral Health
National Association for Hispanic Elderly
National Association of Human Rights Workers (NAHRW)
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
National Community Reinvestment Coalition
National Congress of American Indians
National Congress of Black Women, Inc.
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council on Independent Living
National Disability Rights Network
National Education Association
National Employment Law Project
National Fair Housing Alliance
National Focus on Gender Education
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
National Health Law Program
National Immigration Law Center
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
National Legal Aid & Defender Association
National Low Income Housing Coalition
National Organization for Women
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Priorities Project
National Senior Citizens Law Center
National Skills Coalition
National Urban League
National Women’s Law Center
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Not Dead Yet
The Office of Gender and Racial Justice, RE&WM, GAMC, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
PHI - Quality Care through Quality Jobs
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Poverty & Race Research Action Council
Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Coalition (REHDC)
RESULTS: The Power to End Poverty
SER- Jobs for Progress National, Inc.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team
Social Security Works
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
Southern Poverty Law Center
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
United for a Fair Economy
United States Student Association
U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (USPRA)
Voices for Progress
Wider Opportunities for Women