By Marc Jampole
Snip, snip, snip. They’re cutting down the nets.
I’m not talking about overjoyed college basketball players standing on ladders to cut down the basket nets to the cheers of rabid fans after advancing to the next round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament.
No, that loud and constant snipping sound we hear comes from our nation’s capital where Republicans in the House of Representatives have voted to shred the social safety net.
Healthcare aid to the poor. Cut.
Food stamps for families who can’t otherwise afford a decent meal: Cut.
Special education. Cut.
Pell grants to help poor students afford a college education. Cut.
Job training. Cut. Housing assistance. Cut. Federally-funded research. Cut.
The one government function not to get the hatchet is defense. The House budget actually gives the Pentagon more than it requested, including $96 billion that the generals can spend without telling Congress why. They call it the Overseas Contingency Operations funds, or OCO, but that’s just a euphemism for a slush fund.
And not just for military spending, but for spending on war. As a New York Times article points out, the House budget gives the Defense Department less than it wanted for basic operations, but more than double what it requested for waging war.
House Republicans say they are slashing programs to reduce the deficit, but the fact they saved war from the cutting table suggests that what they really wanted to do was stop paying for social welfare programs. Thus the budget takes money from poor people and gives it to the military contractors and defense manufacturers who benefit most from increased spending on war.
When we look at the money flow, it all makes sense. This budget continues the proud Republican tradition of stealing from the poor to give to the wealthy. It’s the essence of the Reagan agenda, which still guides Republican economic policy. The true objective behind the budget differs not a whit from that goal behind other Republican actions that transfer money from the poor and middle class to the wealthy, such as replacing public schools with charter schools that pay teachers less and administrators more; cutting taxes on the wealthy while also cutting social welfare programs; or making it easier for businesses to resist labor unions so they can pay their employees less and keep more of the profits.
The House budget also includes language that could lead to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which would end the health insurance of millions of Americans, while driving up the cost of coverage significantly for those lucky enough to keep their insurance. The House budget also takes the first step to privatizing Medicare.
It’s not just the flow of money that makes the Republican budget so odious, it’s also the values behind it: These self-proclaimed protectors of American values say “no” to helping the young, the sick, the poor and the elderly, but say “yes” to bombs, tanks and guns. I know these guys hated the 1960’s, but that’s no reason to make “make war, not love” in a mockery of that earlier age’s slogan projecting a world of peace and prosperity.
There is absolutely no chance that this budget will become law. The more reasonable Senate will undoubtedly mess with it, and even if it does pass in close to present form, President Obama will certainly veto it.
But all that means is that programs that help poor people, those who send their children to public schools and those who use America’s roads, bridges and mass transit systems will suffer gradual strangulation, not an instantaneous deathblow. Why? Because without a budget, the sequester will remain in effect and keep slowly choking the budgets of all federal programs.
And if the Republicans could somehow exempt military spending from the sequester, they wouldn’t mind that outcome at all.