In a year where U.S. corporations have made record profits, and where U.S. military spending has expanded to record levels, we are told that working and poor people have to share the burden for budget deficits. Isn’t it a strange idea of sharing when those who are least able to afford it are given the majority of the burden, and those with the most wealth are in fact cut the least?
Last week, Obama announced the Democrats’ federal budget plan. The budget will be balanced by eliminating 200 federal programs that provide social services and funding for education. It cuts $300 million from community development programs. It also limits Pell grants, which are some of the most important sources of funding for poor students trying to go to college. It cuts $3 billion from Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funds. It also cuts hundreds of millions in funding for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, and $600 million in cuts to health care clinics. In other words Obama’s budget attacks the poor, students, women, children, and the sick and elderly.
Obama has made a big deal about how this budget shares the burden by taxing the rich. There are some small tax increases for banks and oil companies. But these are just for show. These tax increases for the wealthy are coming after years of tax breaks that have handed billions of dollars to corporations and the super rich. Just two months ago, Obama signed into law a measure that extends Bush’s tax cuts, reduces the estate tax, and gives corporations new tax breaks. The cost of these tax cuts is $858 billion!
Likewise Obama points to cuts in military spending to show how his budget isn’t just cuts to social spending. The military will receive $12 billion less than the $565 billion they expected to receive. But this is still three percent more than last year, and does not include the $118 billion for the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Compare this to the $481 billion military budget in 2008 when Obama was elected, and it becomes clear that in fact the military is not being cut, it is being expanded.
The cuts that are coming will have a severe impact on poor and working people. Programs that might have brought some development and much-needed improvement of public transit have been cut. The budget slashes $3 billion from public transit funds and $1.5 billion from railway projects.
In addition, cuts are being made to programs that provide essential services to poor and low-income families. Job training programs will be cut by $30 million. The Low Income Heating Assistance program will be slashed by 50 percent. This is a program which literally keeps people in the coldest parts of the country from literally freezing to death. What does it say about the Democrats’ priorities when they condemn people to freeze to death while increasing military spending? What does it say about the their priorities when they cut job training but maintain tax cuts for the wealthy?
Of course the Republican Party’s budget proposals are even more horrifying. The House of Representatives, led by a Republican majority just passed a bill supporting the complete abolition of Medicare. The overall budget proposed by the House Republicans would cut a total of $6 trillion from the federal budget including giving $3 trillion in tax breaks to corporations and the super-wealthy.
Both Democrats and Republicans are operating on the same program – class war against the poor and working class. Both of their plans call for the burden of their economic crisis to be paid for by cuts to social spending and necessary programs. The Democrats offer a less extreme version of the same attacks, with only the promise that next year they will do it again.
We need to start saying enough is enough. The only choice we are being given by the people who run this society is a choice between bad or worse cuts. There is no reason the budget should be balanced on our backs. There is more than enough wealth in this country to pay for these deficits. Working people of the United States are the ones who create this wealth in the first place. This crisis was created by the banks, corporations and the politicians who serve them. It is time to make them pay for it.