Here's a brief description of what's going on: Last spring, Congress passed a budget and tax blueprint calling for three major changes: $35 billion in cuts to vital national services, $70 billion in new tax cuts, largely for the wealthy, and an additional $35 billion tacked onto the deficit. This was bad policy before Katrina, but now it's a catastrophe. Responsible leaders on both sides of the aisle have called for canceling this process, called "budget reconciliation," in light of the cost and increased need created by the hurricane.
But instead of changing course, top Republicans are now using Katrina to argue for $15 billion in additional cuts to the services that the hurricane victims and other vulnerable Americans depend on the most.
Starting this week, the various committees in both houses of Congress will decide whether or not to go ahead with "budget reconciliation" and, if they do go ahead, how bad the cuts will be. If reconciliation bills are submitted, they are hard to amend and impossible to filibuster—so our plan is to weigh in now, before the final decisions are made about what to propose.
Here is a list of some of the programs that are or could be on the chopping block if "budget reconciliation" goes forward:2
- Medicaid and Medicare—the primary health insurance provider for America's poor and elderly.
- Federal Student loans—which make higher education possible for millions of American students.
- Child Nutrition Programs (school lunch and breakfast, summer meals, day care meals)—which provide basic nutrition to underprivileged children in every state.
- Food Stamps—the highly successful federal program that keeps millions of Americans from facing hunger and even starvation.
- Earned Income & Child Tax Credits—vital tax relief for low-income working families.
- Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation—the federal guarantor of private pension programs, needed more than ever in this era of major bankruptcies.
- State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and TANF—which provide basic cost of living support to millions of extremely low income and disabled Americans.
- Unemployment insurance.
We're joining forces with the newly created "Emergency Campaign for American Priorities"—the same team that helped save Social Security—to fight back. And whatever happens this round, together we'll make sure the story gets clearly told and our representatives will be held accountable in 2006 and beyond.
The first step is to find out where all of our representatives stand and make sure Congress gets the message by phoning in 25,000 calls by Tuesday.
Call right now, and let us know what you find out.
But, aparently, the pentagon has a blank check to execute their Iraq mission.