05/16/2012 02:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Senate Budget Plans Range From Extreme to Unimaginable

Today, the Coalition on Human Needs sent a letter making these points to every senator.

May 16, 2012

Dear Senator:

Today you will have the opportunity to vote on a number of budget resolutions: the House-passed budget and plans by Senators Toomey, Paul, and Lee. The Coalition on Human Needs strongly urges you to vote against all these plans.

The Coalition on Human Needs is an alliance of national organizations concerned about the needs of low-income and vulnerable people: faith-based groups, service providers, policy experts, civil rights, labor, and other advocates. We see the ways federal programs serve as life-lines in times of need and engines of opportunity in good times and bad. Tens of thousands in our networks nationwide work with and seek to improve federal programs. We know that the last thing the nation needs is a wholesale decimation of federal services and a permanent weakening of the federal capacity to respond either to the crises or opportunities the future may bring.

Every number in a budget is a choice that has real consequences in people's lives. We see these consequences every day; our report Self-Inflicted Wounds: Protecting Families and Our
Economy from Bad Budget Choices
shows what the results of these choices will be.

The reckless cuts in all these budget plans seem divorced from any recognition of those consequences. The plans would all repeal the Affordable Care Act, heedless of the 30 million people who will go without health insurance. They slash and block-grant Medicaid, eliminating protections for children, the elderly and the disabled, and over time forcing states to either cut back services, remove people from the program, or both. They turn Medicare into a voucher, shifting costs massively from the federal government to older Americans. They make cuts in income security programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and child nutrition programs that range from extreme to unimaginable. The House, Toomey, and Paul budgets would convert SNAP into a block grant; SNAP would no longer be able to help millions of families put food on the table during recessions because it would not have the resources to increase the number of people it served.

These devastating cuts are not necessary. All these budgets reduce the deficit solely through spending cuts instead of increasing revenue, understood by responsible analysts as a necessary component of any plan to provide fiscal stability. In fact, they go further and cut taxes.

The tax proposals incorporated in these budgets overwhelmingly will benefit the rich. In fact, many of the proposals appear to be a concerted effort to engineer wider economic inequality. Taken together with income security spending cuts, huge health care cuts, and eviscerated domestic appropriations, the tax and spending choices represent an enormous transfer of resources from the poor to the rich.

These budgets also would limit the ability of future Congresses to remedy these problems. They include new budget rules that cap spending at dangerously low levels only waive-able with a two-thirds vote.

The immediate human costs of these budgets are unacceptably high. The long-term consequences share the characteristics of a nightmare: frightening but unreal. The House-passed budget takes discretionary spending down to 3.75 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050. That budget would not allow defense spending to dip below 3 percent of GDP, leaving a fraction of a percent for education, the environment, transportation, law enforcement, medical research, housing, and much more. Those programs have not been less than 8 percent of GDP since the end of World War II.

It is an article of faith among those who would shrink government and pile up more tax breaks for millionaires that such steps will spur economic growth. But this view is certainly not backed by evidence. In our periods of strongest economic growth, there were far higher tax rates on the wealthy. Government investments in education, health care, nutrition, and infrastructure have contributed to economic growth. A healthier and better-educated workforce has in the past increased productivity. The cuts already enacted under the Budget Control Act threaten to undermine future shared prosperity, with no new revenues to replace cuts in education, job training, roads, and research. Cutting still more deeply will do significant harm.

There are far better alternatives. The FY 2013 budget proposed by President Obama provides a balanced approach that protects programs serving low- and middle-income people and incorporates job creation plans, while responsibly raising revenues from those who can afford to pay and modestly reducing military spending. We believe the military can be cut more than the President proposes, and that greater revenue gains would make possible more effective investments to reduce poverty and promote shared economic growth. But unlike the budgets before you today, the budget proposed by the President seeks shared responsibility for our future and keeps strong the federal capacity to respond to need.

The increased poverty, hardship, and inequality that would result if the House, Toomey, Paul, or Lee budgets were to be enacted are simply unacceptable. Please reject these budgets.

Sincerely yours,


Deborah Weinstein
Executive Director