Blog: Not Enough Money

Marge Clark, BVM
Jun 01, 2015

The time has come! Time for the Republican leadership to agree to negotiate higher spending caps, in order to meet basic needs of those who struggle to keep a roof over their head and feed themselves and family. The budget resolution has been adopted, with limits suggested for each appropriations (spending) committee. Now, members of those House and Senate committees are trying to find enough money to fund the programs about which they care the most. They are legally bound to stick to the caps established in the Budget Control Act (2011). That act mandates that if the spending cap is exceeded, there would be across-the-board cuts in (almost) all programs in the discretionary spending part of the budget.

When they tried to enforce these caps while working on the fiscal years 2014 and 2015 spending bills, they found they couldn’t do it. They had to pull appropriations bills because they could not figure out how to spread the allotted money across the absolute needs. So, they determined a way to exceed the caps and avoid sequestration by making some well-targeted cuts within most areas (avoiding the hatchet of sequestration) by bringing in enough revenue to meet the absolute needs. The bipartisan negotiation led to an agreement that has come to be known by its authors, Murray and Ryan. But, there were significant cuts in that process.

The new lower amounts became the baseline on which the following year’s funding levels were set. Each successive year brought additional cuts, even as the numbers of people relying on programs increased, and inflation was not taken into account. Some human needs programs are now functioning on less than 30% of their funding level a very few years ago.

The president, in his budget request in February, made an opening for negotiation by buoying up the discretionary spending, and bringing in additional revenue from appropriate sources. It is now time for the Republican leadership to step up and be willing to negotiate on some fair sources of revenue to offset some of the badly needed spending in areas of human needs.

One of our partners, the Coalition on Human Needs, has done a wonderful analysis of 150 human needs programs, tracking their funding levels since 2010. Some of the cuts are horrifying. To give just a few examples:

  • Green Jobs Innovation Fund – cut 100% – eliminated
  • Community Health Centers – cut 38.4%
  • Maternal and child health – cut 13%
  • Rural Health Programs – cut 28.3%
  • Children’s Mental Health – cut 12.8%
  • Voting Access for People with  Disabilities – cut 74.2%
  • Mentoring Children of Prisoners – cut 100% – eliminated
  • Low Income Energy Assistance – cut 45.8

The people of our nation cannot live in dignity, given the sorts of cuts that have been made – to be compounded by continuing to adhere to the BCA, and certainly if sequestration is imposed.

Keep in mind the corporations that multiply their profits, yet pay no income taxes. Consider those who receive tax deductions for multimillion-dollar homes.

Clearly, there is room to negotiate, to find just sources of revenue so those struggling can have a home, can have adequate nutrition, can afford child care so they can work. The list of possible trade-offs is very long. There is room to negotiate!

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