By Teresa Welsh |
If Congress fails to act, in January we will face automatic, indiscriminate cuts to defense and nondefense programs totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that this meat-ax approach to budget cuts is reckless and should be replaced with an alternative method of achieving at least the same amount of deficit reduction—the disagreement lies in how to achieve that savings.
Democrats propose to replace this spending sequester and reduce our deficits through a combination of spending reductions and cuts to tax breaks for the wealthy and powerful special interests. That is the balanced approach recommended by every bipartisan group that has evaluated our fiscal challenge. Democrats already supported $1 trillion in cuts in the Budget Control Act last August, and are willing to consider additional cuts to big agricultural interests and other unnecessary programs—but we must take a balanced approach. Unfortunately, 98 percent of House Republicans have signed a pledge stating that they will not close a single tax loophole or end a single tax break for millionaires to help reduce our deficit.
The math is simple. Because Republicans refuse to ask millionaires to pay one penny more to reduce the deficit, their budget hits everyone else much harder. Their budget provides windfall tax breaks to the very wealthy, while ending the Medicare guarantee, slashing strategic investments, and shredding the social safety net. Similarly, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the Republican plan to stop the sequester for just one year would immediately end food and nutrition support to nearly 2 million struggling people, throw almost 300,000 children off the school lunch program, and cut at least 300,000 children off their health insurance.
Ironically, none of these vulnerable individuals would be harmed if the sequester was actually triggered. Why? Because the bipartisan Budget Control Act exempts many programs for the most vulnerable from the sequester. Yet the Republican plan cynically undoes these protections and puts children and struggling families on the chopping block instead of eliminating taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil or ending tax loopholes that reward companies that ship American jobs overseas.
In the bipartisan Budget Control Aact, Republicans deliberately chose to expose defense spending to deep additional cuts rather than ask the wealthy to share greater responsibility for paying for our national security. Now Republicans say that the blind, across-the-board cuts to defense would be devastating to our national security, but they still won't ask the wealthiest to return to Clinton-era tax rates. This is the same mentality that led Republicans to ask our soldiers to put their lives on the line in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then put the cost of those wars on the national credit card. Republicans in Congress talk big about defense—they just don't want to pay for it. It is time for Republicans to answer a fundamental question: Are they more interested in protecting defense spending or protecting special interest tax breaks for the wealthy? We are still waiting for their response.
About Chris Van Hollen U.S. Representative
Mackenzie Eaglen Fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute
John Gehring Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life