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Friday, November 04, 2005

Pushing the Least of These to the Brink

The Senate approved budget cuts last night in the neighborhood of $35 billion dollars over the next five years. Programs cut? Federal student loans, prescription drug benefits and agricultural subsidies, along with the whiff of attempting to cut down on Medicare fraud (again).

The Senate bill would raise billions of dollars by auctioning off parts of the broadcasting spectrum for digital television. It would raise $2.5 billion through leasing parts of the Alaskan refuge to oil and gas interests. Companies with traditional pension plans would be charged higher premiums for insurance coverage under the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. And the profits of student lenders would be squeezed by $9.7 billion over five years.

Some of the savings would be spent on relief for Katrina survivors and higher payments to health care providers helping Medicare patients.
The House plan? Cuts much more.

The focus now shifts to the House, where the Budget Committee voted 21 to 16 yesterday to approve a more extensive bill saving nearly $54 billion through 2010 with cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, student loans, agriculture subsidies and child support enforcement. The House measure would allow states to impose premiums and co-payments on poor Medicaid recipients for the first time.

With so many controversial provisions, the House measure is forcing Republican leaders to scramble for support in what could be the most difficult vote of the year. Some Republican moderates are balking at cuts to anti-poverty programs, especially in light of a $70 billion tax cut that could come to a vote soon after the budget bill, more than wiping out the first bill's deficit reduction.
Good to know that some people think stomping on the poor while spending ourselves into the poor house isn't the nicest of plans.

Having spent a great deal of my legal career working with the very poor -- especially working to protect vulnerable children in abusive and neglectful households -- these proposed cuts to safety net programs, already hanging on by a thread from previous cuts, are disturbing.

At a time of soaring profits for oil companies nationwide, a proposed cut to heating subsidies this winter is especially infuriating. And that's just one proposed measure. I could go on and on, but I won't -- mainly because it will just piss me off even more.

The children of the least of these in our nation deserve better.

(Photo Credit to Dorothea Lange. This is one of my all-time favorites of her FSA work, and it seemed highly appropriate for this piece. This photograph is entitled "Destitute pea-pickers in California; a 32-year old mother of seven children" from February, 1936.)