“Tough choices in tough times”?A package of program cuts has been proposed by the Republican Study Committee of the House of Representatives. Dubbed “Operation Offset,” the proposal suggests paring down or eliminating dozens of federal programs to offset the cost of relief and recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
Read the Operation Offset proposal here.
Many of the proposed program cuts would place the burden of paying for Katrina recovery squarely on the shoulders of those who are least able to bear it -- the vulnerable and poor, the elderly, children and people with disabilities. The report labels some of these cuts “tough choices for tough times,” but they just make times tougher for people in need while leaving tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in place. The proposals include:
■ Cutting more than $225 billion from Medicaid, the health-care safety net for low-income children, elderly, disabled, pregnant women and parents, over the next 10 years. This is the largest proposed cut.Operation Offset does not call for scaling back a single tax break for the wealthiest Americans even though the $250 billion annual cost of the Bush tax cuts exceeds the projected $200 billion total of relief and rebuilding efforts related to Hurricane Katrina.
■ Increasing premiums and co-payments for Medicare, which would require the elderly and disabled to pay an additional $200 million in fees to access Medicare services over the next 10 years. Medicare premiums already are slated to increase by 13% in 2006; under the proposal, they would increase by 36%. Total savings: $92.5 billion.
■ Freezing funding for community health centers. Savings: $1.4 billion.
■ Reducing funding for the Centers for Disease Control by $25 billion over 10 years.
■ Eliminating subsidized loans to graduate students. Savings: $8.6 billion.
■ Eliminating state grants for safe and drug-free schools, which are important for women and girls because they support violence and sexual-harassment prevention programs. Savings: $4.8 billion.
■ Eliminating funding for family planning for teenagers, a program that allows teens access to contraceptives. Savings: $1.3 billion.
■ Eliminating the Legal Services Corporation, which provides funding for legal services to the poor. The Operation Offset report says LSC has “a long history of legal abuse and fraud, including providing resources for individuals to sue the government for more generous federal benefits.” Savings: $4.6 billion. (This one is near and dear to my heart, of course, and I would suggest that enabling people to challenge the calculation of their benefits is neither fraud nor abuse.)
What we need is a program of shared sacrifice that puts all parts of the federal budget on the table -- including tax cuts -- and achieves savings through a combination of spending restraint and revenue measures.