Monday, February 14, 2011

A Tea Party Without Any Sandwiches for YOU. Or Cutting The Bloated Government

Bruce Bartlett has written an interesting article on the current fascination with cutting the federal budget. It's a bit like letting children play with sharp scissors: No actual thinking required, naturally, just lots of cutting and most likely some blood.

These are the kinds of things the "new" Republicans wish to cut:
About 8 million college students would see their Pell Grants fall by about 15 percent, with the maximum grants of $5,550 declining by by $845. “Our students count on that money, and we don’t have the resources to try to make that up,” one college financial aid officer told the New York Times in December, in response to talk such a cut might be coming.
Head Start funding would fall by more than $1 billion, forcing some combination of lower spending per child and fewer children in the program. The analysis I saw predicted more than 200,000 low-income children would lose slots in the program, although some of that may reflect the loss of funding from the expiring Recovery Act. Either way, it's a pretty big hit. Oh, and about 55,000 instructors and teachers could lose jobs as part of the cut.
In absolute terms, the cut to the USDA's food inspection program may seem a lot smaller--just $100 million. But that will almost certainly mean fewer inspectors, which is no small thing. As the non-partisan organization OMB Watch has noted, in recent years the number of inspectors has not kept up with the number of food producers--and "at no other regulatory agency does the size of the inspectorate need to be so closely aligned to the size of the industry it regulates." 
Title I grants, which help schools with particularly needy populations, would fall by $700 million, affecting 2,400 schools and one million children. Another 10,000 instructors and aides would likely lose their jobs, as well. This is a direct hit on low-income children and the communities in which they live. (In the forthcoming print edition of TNR, I profile a Flint, Michigan school that has won awards for its work with low-income students. A big reason why is its Title I teachers.)
Americorps? The House Republicans would wipe out its funding entirely. And the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? Same thing.
And the "pro-life" Republicans also want to hurt pregnant women and infants:
They also want to reduce spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, and Children. That initiative, known as WIC, provides nutritional assistance to expectant mothers and newborns. As Paul Krugman notes, that cut will hurt today and tomorrow, since kids who grow up malnourished are more likely to have problems later in life.
Wow. Just wow. Note who suffers from those cuts. I'll give you one hint: They are not the voting base of the Republican Party. They are the poor, the teachers and, naturally, the women, though allowing more food-linked illnesses will kill off the odd Republican, too.

Most of these cuts are class warfare. They try to stop upward mobility. And they do look like children going haywire with sharp scissors, as I mentioned. There is no attempt to separate really good programs with those which are only moderately successful or outright ineffective. Off with your head, whoever you are! The WIC program, for example, is excellent in its outcomes and it should be an obvious thing for anti-abortion people to support. But noooo. Which suggests that those people really don't care about babies at all.

Back to Bartlett's article. He gives us a table based on Suzanne Mettler's study concerning the ignorance of Americans about whether they have been the beneficiaries of government social programs or not. The first column in the table lists various programs, the second column gives the percentage of actual beneficiaries of that program who think they haven't received anything from the government:

529 or Coverdell
Home mortgage interest deduction
Hope or Lifetime Learning Tax Credit
Student Loans
Child and Dependent Tax Credit
Earned income tax credit
Social Security - Retirement and Survivors
Pell Grants
Unemployment Insurance
Veterans Benefits (other than G.I. Bill)
G.I. Bill
Head Start
Social Security Disability
SSI - Supplementary Security Income
Welfare/Public Assistance
Government Subsidized Housing
Food Stamps

Pretty mind-boggling, isn't it?