Friday, November 18, 2005

The Party Of Fiscal Irresponsibility

Fiscal responsibility was the one-time rallying cry of the conservative movement. It centered around wrenching control away from the dastardly "tax-and-spend" Democrats and reigning in "Big Government" for the good of society. Unfortunately, like many GOP talking points, fiscal responsibility is actually the opposite of what Republicans practice while in office, in spite of how loudly they preach.

From The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

In both the morning and the evening of November 17, House leaders made modifications to the House budget reconciliation bill. Some of these changes were intended to garner support from members of Congress concerned that millions of low-income families would be harshly affected by the bill and forced to shoulder a large share of the bill's cuts.

CBO analyses show, however, that the modifications are very minor and do not soften the bill's effects on vulnerable low-income families very much. These changes reduce the total level of cuts that most directly affect low-income families and individuals by only about two percent. The other 98 percent of the low-income cuts remain.

This bill, which passed the House by a two vote margin yesterday, should be the final nail in the coffin of the "compassionate conservative" myth. After all, how compassionate can the Republicans be when the changes made to this bill, changes pushed by moderates to protect the pooraccomplishsh the following:

The House budget bill would still deny food stamps to more than 220,000 low-income people each month by 2008, and would cut basic food aid by nearly $700 million over five years.

As if it were not embarrassing enough that the wealthiest economy the world has ever seen has such a poverty problem as to need food stamps in the first place, our Congress sees fit to cut that aid. The oil industry will still receive its $9 billion in tax breaks authorized earlier this year in the Energy Act of 2005, while 220,000 more Americans will go hungry. I wonder what "moral value" this sort of thing falls under?

The bill still would allow states to charge unlimited copayments, as well as to impose large premiums for the first time in Medicaid's history, on six million low-income children and many other beneficiaries with incomes just above the poverty line (or above 133 percent of the poverty line for children under the age of six). There would be no dollar ceiling on the co-payment and premium levels that could be charged to patients just above the poverty line; the only limit would be that total co-payments and premiums could not exceed five percent of a family's annual income, a level that has been found by medical studies to result in large numbers of low-income patients forgoing needed care and becoming sicker.

Millions of low-income Americans are already living without insurance, and the GOP has seen fit to further cut the largest government program aiding those people. It's in the best interest of our society that everyone be able to get the best health care available without trading their economic well-being in the process. I speak with the voice of experience when I say that medical bills can completely derail a family's financial health. Plus, pushing responsibilitylity for burdening the poor onto the states is a loathsome game of "pass the buck".

According to CBO, the cuts in federal funding for child support efforts would result in $24 billion in child support payments that would be collected under current law going uncollected over the next ten years.

A common thread that runs through this so-called "Budget Reconciliation" act is a clear disregard for the health and well-being of children. Social welfare programs are tremendously weighted towards helpunderprivilegedeged children, and the major provisions of this act undermine that support. All of these clear attacks on children and families in need, yet supposed family-oriented advocacy groups such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council are too busy bashing gays and Harry Potter to notice. Apparently children and family just aren't quite as important as Republican politics for these organizations (but you knew that).

Of course, the real haymaker, the truly unkindest cut of all, is the rationale behind these onerous cuts to child and family welfare. As it turns out, the reconstruction in the Gulf Coast really doesn't enter the equation. So exactly what is the purpose of the Budget Reconciliation Act?

Finally, it remains the case that these cuts would not be used to reduce the deficit or to offset the costs of hurricane relief. These cuts would be used instead to partially offset the cost of the tax-cut reconciliation bill that the House plans to consider as early as tomorrow. The tax-cut bill would reduce revenues by $60 billion over five years, more than offsetting the total savings in the House budget-cut bill.

This latest tax cut is the elimination of the oft-maligned Inheritance Tax, that affects less than 2% of all American household.

This is where "compassionate conservatism" has led the United States: a budget-cutting bill that reduces aid to our poorest children so that our wealthiest children can receive billions in unearned income tax free. This is the kind of society that conservatives want and what they consider fair. Never mind that this actually increases the deficit yet again, which drives up interest rates. Tax cuts funded by deficit spending aren't tax cuts at all; they're tax deferments pushed off on subsequent generations. Quite a "compassionate" legacy to leave for our children.

Fiscal responsibility does not mean starving the poorest Americans of resources. It doesn't mean deferring taxes today so that our children pay more tomorrow. It doesn't mean allowing the wealthiest Americans to pass along billions in tax-free earnings to their children while our poorest children starve. The Budget Reconciliation bill is an abomination, designed to further crystallize American society into the wealthy elite and the working poor. It's fiscal irresponsibility at its most rank and demonstrates just how far out of touch the Republican party has become with the American people.

Jesus (among others) taught that concern for the poor was one of the most important values a person and a society could have. Perhaps the "Party of Moral Values" should give a read to the words of the man whose name they feel they own...

No comments: