On the Backs of the Poor

Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a statement about the cuts that fiscal conservatives in the Republican Study Committee have proposed in order to pay for Katrina reconstruction:

In particular, these proposals would place much of the burden of Katrina relief and deficit reduction on the backs of our nation’s poor, seniors, and people with disabilities, as well as on poor people in other countries through cuts in U.S. programs designed to combat global poverty and AIDS.

Indeed, the GOP plans to save a lot of money by slashing Medicaid, at a time when the program is more important than ever for providing health insurance to those who lose their coverage at work. Oh, and they’d like to slash foreign aid. Naturally, they title the report “tough choices in tough times.” Democrats and liberals, meanwhile, haven’t provided much in the way of alternatives, as far as I can tell (besides Nancy Pelosi’s noble-but-insignificant offer to sacrifice San Francisco pork). Perhaps they all think that James K. Galbraith has it right and deficits don’t really matter. Really, though, it’s easy to close the deficit—or at the very least, paying for Katrina—by rolling back Bush’s tax cuts and going after waste and fraud in the Pentagon, or useless military programs. A GAO report out today “found many inaccuracies [in Defense Department spending] totaling billions of dollars.” That seems far more worthwhile than gutting health care for low-income families. Defense spending, however, makes up the smallest of the cuts proposed by the Study Committee.

UPDATE: The Center for American Progress has its own proposal for trimming the budget. Not all of this is realistic, of course, just as the Republican proposal isn’t politically realistic. But in the abstract, it’s far more sensible.