Rep. Carter's Irresponsible ActCongressman John Carter has an editorial in the Hill Country News, The Deficit Reduction Act: A new day in responsible government. I will be contrasting his statements with a recent release from the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) entitled Special CPPP Message on Federal Budget Reconciliation - with some commentary sprinkled in here and there.
Right out of the gate, with the title of the editorial, Rep. Carter shows us that the truth is optional:
Rep Carter: The Deficit Reduction Act: A new day in responsible governmentNext, as any good Republican in the modern era would, Rep. Carter invokes the name of St. Ronald:
CPPP: Because the tax cuts are larger than the spending reductions, both the House and Senate are proposing to increase, not decrease, the deficit. As we will explain, this is all about tax cuts paid for by low-income Americans.
As Reagan aptly said in his first inaugural address, "“Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."Running up huge deficits and then using that as the excuse for gutting all social spending, has been part of the right-wing Republican plan for many years. (See Grover Norquist and this too.) Let's examine Rep. Carter's comment in today's terms. Put on your Hurricane Katrina colored glasses for a minute, if you will. The only reason the government has been a problem in this case is because it's currently being run by those people who think that government is the problem! Using a disaster to take advantage of the American people and to advance the right-wing plan of taking from the poor and giving to the rich is disgusting, to say the least.
As he moves on, Rep. Carter tries to say this is just the Republican Party getting back to its conservative roots: "Undoubtedly, the War on Terror mixed with an economic downturn contributed to increases in the deficit, but as of Nov. 18, conservatives with a renewed sense of purpose began the march to responsibility." He seems to be blaming the current fiscal problems in this country on the runaway spending he and his party have been doing over the last five years. And I guess now that the War on Terror is over and the economy has turned around they can now get back to gouging the poor and middle class. One would think telling the truth would be the responsible thing to do!
Then he reaches for another traditionally misleading right-wing talking point:
The Deficit Reduction Act reforms key government programs and achieves savings. Those unwilling to exercise self-control with your money have accused our efforts as "“taking food from the mouths of children"” and "“destroying our nation's future."” In reality, this bill doesn't even cut spending but rather reduces the current rate. Spending will continue to grow, just not at the rampant pace of the bureaucratic status quo.Or at the rate of a Congressman's salary.
Let me see if I can explain this. If inflation rises faster than the amount of money you take in, then you have less money than last year, and your money doesn't buy as much of a product or service as it did last year. Like gas, for example. Now think about how much more you are paying for gas this year as opposed to last year. Did your income grow enough to cover that? If it didn't, then you have to take money from something else now to pay for gas.
Now instead of gas, substitute bread--or prescription drugs, or child care, or rent. Do you see where I'm going with this? When Rep. Carter says this bill will, "save and strengthen Medicaid", it really means, "Near-poor children could lose coverage for such services as eyeglasses, hearing aids, dental care, speech therapy, and crutches."* When he says it will, "lower prescription drug costs", it really means, "..provisions to increase what Medicaid beneficiaries pay out-of-pocket will reduce their use of health care services, and that new premiums authorized in the bill will result in more than 100,000 beneficiaries losing Medicaid."* When he says it will, "strengthen and simplify student loan programs", it really means, "The House budget cuts $14.5 billion from student loans, and student groups estimate the cuts will result in an average increase of $5,800 in students' loan payments."* Just to name a few. And the worst part of it all is that this doesn't have to be done. Again from the CPPP:
Does Congress have to pass budget reconciliation?The point of all of this is that Rep. Carter is on board with using natural disasters as a tool to reap the political gains that right-wing conservatives have been trying to force on the American people for decades. Of course there is a better way to take care of our country than this. What this post hopefully points out is that in order for that to happen John Carter can no longer be in the U. S. House of Representatives!
No. Budget reconciliation is outside the normal process of taxing and spending. Congress does not have to do it. If the reconciliation bills do not pass, the federal government would still have a "“budget"” and could continue to operate. In fact, the best outcome would be for both parts of budget reconciliation (both the tax cuts and the spending cuts) to be defeated.
* All responses to Rep. Carter's statements are from the above linked CPPP document and can be found by clicking on ..Continue Reading! to read them.
Because Texas relies so heavily on federal funding, and has so many low-income people who rely on federal programs, any cuts to the federal budget have a particularly significant effect on our state. To make this real, consider the consequences of passing the House bill, which finances tax cuts by cutting services for low-income Americans.
- Medicaid: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that provisions to increase what Medicaid beneficiaries pay out-of-pocket will reduce their use of health care services, and that new premiums authorized in the bill will result in more than 100,000 beneficiaries losing Medicaid. CBO projects nearly $30 billion in savings over ten years due to reduced utilization of services and decreased enrollment.
Also under the House bill, the federal government would no longer require that states provide children just above the poverty line with comprehensive preventive care and treatment. Near-poor children could lose coverage for such services as eyeglasses, hearing aids, dental care, speech therapy, and crutches. Over 10 years, the House bill has net Medicaid cuts of $43.7 billion, nearly 3 times the $14.7 billion cut in the Senate bill.
The Senate bill achieves savings in the Medicaid program, but does so without either increasing premiums or co-payments on low-income beneficiaries, or reducing the level of health care services covered by the program.
- Child Support Enforcement: CBO estimates that under the House billÃ’s 40% reduction in enforcement spending, child support payments made by non-custodial parents would be $24 billion lower over ten years (an estimated $1.25 billion in lower payments for Texas children). (No Senate cut.)
- Food Stamps: CBO estimates indicate that under the House bill more than 220,000 people a month would lose food stamps; mostly people in low-income working families. In Texas, the House proposal is expected to cut off benefits for at least 36,000 persons, and there are indications that the impact could be significantly higher. (No Senate cut.)
- Child-care subsidies: Child care would be eliminated for 330,000 children in low-income working families under the House bill. The House bill requires states to place many more parents receiving cash assistance under the TANF program into full-time work programs, but fails to provide enough child care money even to maintain the current number of subsidized child-care slots for low-income families. The CBO estimates that another $12.5 billion in child care would be needed nationwide to match the increased work requirements, but the bill provides only $500 million. As a result, states would have to shift child-care slots from working poor families (those not on TANF cash assistance), to families that receive cash aid (from TANF) and are participating in work programs. (No Senate cut.)
- Student Loans: The House budget cuts $14.5 billion from student loans, and student groups estimate the cuts will result in an average increase of $5,800 in students' loan payments. The Senate bill calls for $18 billion in cuts to student loans, but reinvests $11 billion of its savings into student financial aid, including $8 billion in new spending for the Pell Grant program, for a net cut of $7 billion.