The GOP’s Safety Net Wrecking Crew

The new Republican majority, led by Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.), rode into the House of Representatives this year promising to slash $100 billion from the federal budget in a year’s time. At the start, that promise was woefully short on details. This past week, however, the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a conservative bloc of House lawmakers, shed some light on the GOP’s plans when it released a report outlining potential cuts. A fiscal expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) analyzed the RSC’s plans—and found some grisly details.

But first, let’s start with House Speaker Boehner’s plan, which calls for cuts of 21 percent to non-security discretionary programs (meaning defense spending and entitlements like Medicare and Social Security go untouched). Boehner’s plan would slice $105 billion off President Obama’s $483 billion 2011 budget proposal. As I previously reported, Boehner’s proposal, outlined in the GOP’s “Pledge to America,” would hit social services hard, cutting $8.7 billion from K-12 education, $6.9 billion from local- and state-run housing programs, and $1.6 billion from food stamps for pregnant women, infants, and at-risk children. Or as CBPP budget guru Jim Horney put it, “Boehner’s proposal would represent the deepest annual cut in funding for these programs in recent U.S. history. It would remove substantial purchasing power from a weak economy, thereby costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and raising risks of a double-dip recession.”

The RSC’s plan, however, cuts far deeper, Horney found. It would slash 42 percent from those same non-security discretionary programs, if applied evenly across all programs. That’s double what John Boehner wants. That would mean nearly halving funding for veterans’ health care and K-12 education, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health, among many more.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean the same 42-percent cut would be applied to all programs. Funding for certain agencies and programs could be protected entirely, while others could be more or less eviscerated. Nonetheless, it’s hard to understate how drastic the RSC’s cuts would be. Here is Horney’s take:

In essence, the RSC proposal would eviscerate the vital services and benefits that the federal government provides and that improve the living standards and quality of life for millions of Americans from New York to California, Maine to Texas.

During the recent election, many voters supported calls for less government spending. But they were told that policymakers could reach this goal largely by eliminating earmarks and obvious “Waste, fraud, and abuse.” I doubt many Americans thought lawmakers would interpret the election as a mandate to cut a vast array of crucial programs by nearly half. I also doubt they would be happy with such an outcome.


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