Congressional Spending Agreement Cuts Vulnerable Programs While Boosting Defense Budget
When Congressional leaders agreed to an end-of-year spending bill last night, it averted a government shutdown that would have done real harm to American families and the economy. But that doesn’t mean vulnerable Americans came out of the deal unscathed. Budget-cutters managed to force reductions in a number of government departments and programs, including Pell Grants and heating aid, which serve low-income students and households respectively.
Think Progress documents how the cuts to Pell Grants could push 100,000 students from eligibility for the program, as well as cause students currently receiving grants to lose their tuition assistance only one or two semesters away from completing their studies.
Similarly, the $1.1 billion cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) come right as more and more American families have been turning to the program to help them get through the winter during these tough economic times, including an increasing number of military families.
To be clear, there was no trigger or law demanding a certain level of cuts. These were entirely voluntary decisions made purely for the conservative rhetorical goal of “cutting spending” without concern for the relative impact of the programs or people that will be hurt. And the “savings” from the cuts to these crucial programs are so minuscule as to be entirely irrelevant to the larger deficit and debt debate.
Even more shocking, lawmakers cut these programs while concurrently boosting the Pentagon’s budget by 1% to $518 billion. While a stalled recovery is a terrible time to make any cuts in government spending, to trumpet the fiscal austerity slogan of “shared sacrifice” while not asking the single-largest section of the discretionary budget to sacrifice at all is a blatant moral offense.
Jim Wallis often issues a challenge to budget-cutting lawmakers to just simply “say out loud that every line item of military spending is more important” than the domestic programs they put in their cross-hairs. After another spending bill with immoral priorities, we’re all still waiting.
Photo credit: Steve Rhodes, Flickr