News

GOP shows how out of touch it is

Friday, June 10, 2011

By CAROL SHEA-PORTER

There has been a lot of discussion about the budget bill that the Republican House of Representatives passed last month.

The members claimed they had to pass this Paul Ryan plan, cynically called The Path to Prosperity, because America had so much debt that the country could collapse. They were right about one thing. America has too much debt. But their solution is a disaster for this country and will not eliminate the debt, although it will eliminate some of the middle class.

The debt is a result of irresponsible tax cuts for the very wealthy, tax loopholes and subsidies, two wars that were not paid for, Congressional refusal to force pharmaceutical companies to negotiate Medicare prescription drug prices, and waste, fraud and abuse in so many areas. Congress has not provided enough oversight and protected our tax dollars. But why punish the people who gave their tax dollars, believing the money should and would be spent on programs they support?

The Ryan plan goes after the poor, the middle class and essential government programs, while offering still more tax cuts for the wealthiest and corporations. As a matter of fact, the Congressional Budget Office states that under Ryan’s plan, the public debt would rise.

What exactly would happen if the House plan, which both our Republican members voted for, became law? Everyone knows they would cut or end the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Service, and many people are OK with that. But do they know it also would cut programs such as Habitat for Humanity, Senior Corps, and Teach for America? Probably not.

That is just the beginning.

That budget also cuts the Environmental Protection Agency, and stops them from enforcing standards for toxic mercury, among other toxins. Just a little thank you gift to the big polluters such as the Koch Brothers, who helped so many members get elected.

For those hardworking Americans who have sent money to Washington and hoped to get some back in the form of Pell grants for their children’s college, there is bad news. They reduced that too. Most members of Congress do not need or qualify for Pell grants, by coincidence. Republicans cut Head Start, which helps young kids get ready for school. Members don’t need that either.

Maybe working people need a little help for health care and immunizations, but that was cut. The Republicans reduced funding for the Centers for Disease Control and for immunizations and respiratory diseases such as asthma, and reduced funding for research as well. And while they were at it, they decreased money for Community Health Centers, which serve people without health insurance. Congress has health insurance for themselves and their families, by happy coincidence.

For people who live in areas that experience crime, life would become harder. The Republicans cut the COPS program. Members generally do not live in dangerous areas, by still another happy coincidence. But members do live in America, so why they cut Homeland Security Grants is beyond me. Transit Security Grants and Port Security Grants were cut also, and there would be 900 fewer Border Control Agents.

We all know that this plan privatizes Medicare, which will have terrible repercussions for seniors and wonderful results for insurance companies. But the Republicans also cut staffing at Social Security offices, and this will make millions who are filing for benefits wait longer.

The House Republicans even tried to snatch money away from the people who gave them their freedom and now are down on their luck. They tried to end funding for homeless veterans, but the outcry was too loud and they retreated.

While they were attacking the vulnerable by cutting programs such as LIHEAP (Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program), they also hurt families and communities by attacking clean water programs, transit, the money to modernize the air traffic control system, and so many other essential programs. Our two House members dared to call for money for LIHEAP and the Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth after they voted to kill funding. Fortunately, the money for the Memorial Bridge was already in the pipeline and the project is secure.

Shared sacrifice is a great goal. But the Republicans never targeted that goal. They took money from programs and people, and used it to give more tax cuts to the richest and the most powerful. That was their goal. Budgets are moral documents, and this budget is immoral.

Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represented New Hampshire’s First District from 2007-2011. She wrote the proposal for and established a nonprofit, social service agency, which continues to serve all ages. She taught politics and history and is a strong supporter of Medicare and Social Security.

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