Sequestration as proposed by Republicans in Washington was supposed to be so awful and painful for purposes of budgeting that common sense would intervene to reverse it. If sequestration was to be as repulsive and hurtful as eating ground glass, it appears Republicans have acquired a taste for ground glass in their daily diet.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, Aviva Aron-Dine, Acting Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget Eric Schultz, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary, discussed the House Republican budget bill they said would shortchange students, workers, health care and the economy.
GOP Acquires Taste For Ground Glass
Now in charge of both houses of Congress following last year’s midterm elections with voter turnout down to historic lows, Aron-Dine and Schultz warned that Republicans have started to show how they plan to budget at discretionary levels that are the lowest in a decade, adjusted for inflation.
Schultz said budgets define crystallization of priorities, and for President Barack Obama, his priorities are to help workers gain 21st century skills, make middle class paychecks go further and grow American jobs at home. “The trouble we see from the other side is the Republican budget represents misplaced priorities,” he said, adding, “The GOP philosophy is based on so-called trickle-down economics. We couldn’t disagree more.”
Information sourced through the White House said Republicans propose to shortchange students, workers, the nation’s health and the economy by cutting overall funding for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services by roughly $15 billion, or 9 percent, compared to the President’s Budget. Through a combination of funding cuts and ideologically-motivated provisions, the Republican Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill being marked up in full committee in the House Wednesday would, among other changes, leave millions of Americans without health insurance, reduce access to early education, make college students more vulnerable to poorly performing career colleges, and jeopardize worker rights and safety.
Aron-Dine said it’s bad public policy to lock-in sequestration, which has brought spending levels to the lowest level in a decade. Using the appropriations process for ideological riders, she said, would disrupt healthcare, education and worker protections. Regretting that the Senate and House bills are close cousins, she said, for example, more than 189,000 Ohioans who enjoy health coverage now through the Affordable Care Act would no longer have that coverage, as Republicans vote again, after doing so 50 times already, to disrupt that coverage by repealing the ACA.
“The House bill goes after ACA cost controls by not allowing them to scale up to meet demand,” she said on the call, adding, “there are lots of ideological riders in the bill.” Sequestration is leading to cuts both parties agree are unneeded, she said, noting that by fixing one problem, it only makes others worse. Despite the president’s disappoint with the bill, Aron-Dine said there is still some optimism going forward. “We’re optimistic about a good outcome, commonsense would reverse sequestration just like the Murray-Ryan agreement dd. It’s the only possible way forward on the budget. Republicans need to work with Democrats on the budget bill.”
According to the White House, the deep cuts in the House Republican bill are a direct result of their decision to lock in funding cuts imposed by sequestration. Sequestration was never intended to take effect: rather, it was supposed to threaten such drastic cuts to both defense and non-defense funding that policymakers would be motivated to come to the table and reduce the deficit through smart, balanced reforms. President Obama’s budget would reverse these cuts going forward, replacing the savings with commonsense spending and tax reforms in order to make investments important to families, the economy, and our national security.
- Millions of Americans could lose their health care coverage, and innovations that are helping to slow health care cost growth and improve quality would be blocked.
- Young children would lose access to high quality early education.
- K-12 students will be shortchanged.
- Colleges would become less accountable for providing a quality and affordable education.
- Fewer workers would get job training or help finding a job.
- Enforcement of workers’ rights, benefits, and safety protections would be weakened.
- Social Security beneficiaries and applicants would see poorer service from the Social Security Administration.
- The number of national service members working in communities across the country would be sharply reduced.
- Millions of low-income women would not receive needed preventative and reproductive health services.
- Our Nation would have fewer resources to effectively respond to and recover from public health emergencies and catastrophes, such as a hurricane, anthrax outbreak, or disease pandemic.
GOP Budget Impact On Ohio
In addition to the reduction in services that Ohio would experience as a result of the House Republican proposals for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services, other House Republican bills written at sequestration funding levels would also have significant consequences for Ohio, including:
Access to Affordable Housing: Compared to the President’s Budget, the House Republican budget would fund 100,000 fewer Housing Choice Vouchers, reducing opportunities for low-income households to find decent, safe housing in the private market. Not only does the House Republican budget fail to restore the 67,000 vouchers lost due to the 2013 sequestration, it is also insufficient to renew 28,000 existing vouchers. As a result, approximately 840 fewer Ohio families would receive Housing Choice Vouchers in 2016, compared to the previous year, and even more would lose out relative to the President’s Budget. These cuts are even more problematic in light of new research released this year that found large positive effects of housing vouchers on long-term educational and earnings outcomes for young children.
Efforts to End Homelessness: Compared to the President’s Budget, the House Republican budget reduces funding for Homeless Assistance Grants, supporting 15,000 fewer homeless or at-risk families with rapid rehousing and 25,500 fewer units of permanent supportive housing targeted to the chronically homeless. In January 2014, there were 11,800 homeless individuals in Ohio – including roughly 1,100 who were unsheltered – but only 14,200 permanent supportive housing beds. House Republican cuts would further strain states and communities, set us back in meeting the President’s ambitious goals for ending chronic, family, and youth homelessness, and jeopardize the progress we have already made in ending homelessness for veterans.
Critical transportation programs: The highly successful, competitive TIGER grant program allows the Federal government to invest in transportation projects that can have a transformative impact on a region or a metropolitan area. Over the past three years, Ohio received $16.5 million for these projects, which spur innovation and propel economic mobility by helping connect people to jobs in communities across the United States. The House Republican budget would slash TIGER grant funding to nearly 80 percent below its lowest level ever, despite the fact that the program is vastly oversubscribed. The Republican budget also cuts locally planned transit capital investments by more than 40 percent below the President’s Budget and shrinks funding for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facilities to the lowest level in fifteen years, worsening traffic delays and hampering FAA’s ability to keep our airspace safe
Scientific Research: Nationwide, compared to the President’s Budget, the House Republican budget would lead to roughly 600 fewer research grants at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and cuts to clean energy research and development of roughly 40 percent, adversely affecting research essential to the future health, innovation, and economic competitiveness of the Nation. In 2014, Ohio received competitive NSF research awards that supported 1,690 researchers and scientists, including graduate and undergraduate students.
Veterans Medical Care: Nationwide, funding for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care would be cut by more than half a billion dollars, negatively impacting veterans’ care. In 2014, 230,700 Ohio veterans relied on the VA for care.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Customer Service and Preventing Tax Fraud: IRS taxpayer services in Ohio would continue deteriorating below already unacceptable levels, and efforts to investigate fraud and reclaim taxpayer dollars would be further hampered. The House Republican budget cuts IRS funding by $2.8 billion, or 22 percent, compared to the President’s Budget. Since 2010, the IRS budget has already been cut by roughly 17 percent, adjusted for inflation, despite the fact that, between 2010 and 2014, the number of individual tax returns filed in Ohio increased by 138,300. The House Republican budget sets funding at a level, in real terms, below IRS’s 1991 budget. The IRS estimates that the reductions in enforcement staff as a result of budget cuts that have already occurred will lead to a loss of $7 billion to $8 billion in lost revenue in 2015 alone. If the IRS is forced to absorb the additional cuts in the House Republican budget, enforcement revenues in 2016 would be more than $12 billion less than they would have been if the 2010 staffing levels had been maintained.