NY Times: Callous Choices in the House

Wanted to be sure you saw this NY Times editorial highlighting new details of Republicans’ extreme budget that ends the Medicare guarantee, targets the most vulnerable, puts our economy at risk, and cuts taxes for the wealthy:

April 23, 2012

Callous Choices in the House

For months, House Republicans have been trying to wriggle out of the agreement they made in August that will force deep cuts in military spending. Now we know how they propose to do it: They will take tens of billions out of programs for the poorest Americans, particularly food stamps, along with health care for the middle class.

The House Agriculture Committee voted on Wednesday to cut $33 billion over the next decade out of food stamps. That would immediately end benefits for two million people, and reduce benefits for the remaining 44 million people who use the program. A family of four would find their benefits lowered by $57 a month beginning in September, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The committee trimmed job training for food-stamp recipients by 72 percent; 280,000 students would no longer be eligible for free meals.

To understand how callous this vote was, consider the choices the committee and the full House could have made. The budget deal reached last August — the one Republicans triggered with their disastrous debt-ceiling crisis — calls for a painful sequester of $600 billion to both military and domestic spending over a decade. The Republicans could have accepted the military cuts they had agreed to or they could have joined with Democrats in reducing the cuts by raising taxes on the rich.

Instead, the 2013 budget, written by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, put all the cuts on the domestic side. Representative Mike Conaway, a Texas Republican, explained that the Constitution requires Congress to pay for defense but that food stamps and other domestic programs were lower priorities.

Agriculture was one of six committees ordered to find cuts to protect the military budget. The Ways and Means Committee has to cut $53 billion, and its members have already begun taking most of that money out of health care reform, starting with subsidies for insurance exchanges. The Financial Services Committee is planning to save $35 billion by eliminating the F.D.I.C.’s ability to take over failing banks, and hobbling the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with a $5.4 billion cut.

The agriculture committee, told to find $33 billion in cuts, could have substantially reduced the farm subsidies that now amount to more than $15 billion a year. Instead, the entire amount is coming out of food stamps.

The Senate and the White House have said they would reject all the proposed cuts. Earlier this month, the White House budget director told the House that the president would not sign any appropriations bills until it agrees to abide by the spending levels in the budget deal.

The extremists who run the House budget process seem willing to force a shutdown later this year to get their way, but they may find themselves isolated. On Thursday, Senate Republican leaders said they would abide by the spending targets in the budget deal. There is still time for them to persuade the House to come to its senses.