As the Republicans go home for Thanksgiving this week, House leaders are congratulating themselves on having squeaked through a divisive budget bill that takes canned goods from the poor in order to fund more luxuries for the rich.
The $50 billion in budget cuts for programs that help the poor will not quite cover the $57 billion in tax cuts for the rich they plan on ramming through right after the break.
In order to save face, they decided not to take up the giveaways in dividend and estate taxes on the same day they cut Food Stamps, Medicaid, and college loans.
But the connection is very clear. Dennis Hastert lectured his booing colleagues on fiscal responsibility and the importance of doing something about the deficit his own party has created. The Democrats were not buying it.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "Many of the cuts would hit low-income people directly and hard."
When the bill stirred up resistance even among Republicans, the House leadership made some concessions, putting back money for some particularly popular programs. But these last-minute adjustments only changed the bill marginally, according to the CBPP, lessening the cuts aimed at the poor by 2 percent.
Medicaid beneficiaries get cuts of $30 billion over ten years. That "savings" includes the Congressional Budget Office's projection that higher co-pays and premiums will mean more poor people forgoing health care altogether.
"CBO estimates that about 80 percent of the savings from the increases in Medicaid co-payments are expected to come from decreases in the use of services such as doctors' visits and prescribed medications." CBPP reports.
In addition, the House bill lifts a requirement that states pay for preventive care for low-income children just above the poverty line. Then there are the cuts in child-support enforcement, and the more than 220,000 people per month--mostly the low-income working poor with children--who will lose Food Stamps.
The bill also eliminates child care subsidies for 330,000 low-income children.
As Democrat Rahm Emanuel said, "You guys give a whole new meaning to 'women and children first.’“
Ruth Conniff covers national politics for The Progressive and is a voice of The Progressive on many TV and radio programs.
© 2005 The Progressive