The Federal Budget: Their Game, Our Lives

Last week, Obama along with Republicans and Democrats from Congress announced their new federal budget for 2011. It will cut more than $38 billion in social spending over the next year, and will be the largest one-year federal spending cut ever in US history.

Before they announced their budget, Republicans and Democrats couldn’t immediately agree about how many billions of dollars they wanted to cut this year. Their negotiations deadlocked and so we were forced to watch them put on a little show and play games with our lives. They warned that the deadline for passing a budget was approaching and that the government would shut down if none was passed by midnight last Friday. Of course the only thing they threatened to shut down were the paychecks of government workers, tax refunds, and the social services we depend on. More than 800,000 government workers received layoff notices last Friday, putting them and their families through stress and worry.

Meanwhile Obama told us that all so-called essential government services, like the military, wouldn’t be interrupted. What could be more revealing about the priorities of the people who run this society? Putting the incomes of hundreds of thousands government workers on hold isn’t a problem. But US military patrols in Iraq and Afghanistan and remote control drones attacks on rural Pakistani villages won’t be interrupted!

Now that they have agreed on a budget, Obama and other politicians act as if we should be relieved or thankful. But this budget is nothing but another attack on our lives. Many of the details of what they want to cut haven’t been released, but we know that billions will be cut from health, transportation, housing, and education. Included in the agreement is a measure to ban all government funding for clinics that provide abortions in the Washington DC area. Thousands of low-income women who depend on these clinics for other health services like breast cancer screenings and pap smears will now have to go without them or figure out something else. But at the same time that this budget cuts the services and programs many of us depend on, it increases funding for the Pentagon by $5 billion.

Republicans and Democrats are warning us that the cuts in this latest budget are nothing compared to what is coming. Recently, the Republicans announced a plan that would cut $5.8 trillion from the federal budget over the next ten years. They are proposing to abolish Medicaid and Medicare, two government programs that provide healthcare for the poor and elderly. They simply want to hand over the billions spent to fund these programs to health insurance corporations by giving people vouchers they would use to buy private health insurance. In addition to this gift to corporations, their plan also includes a proposal to lower the tax rate on the rich from 35 percent to 25 percent.

After they announced their latest budget, the Republicans and Democrats reminded us that we are in crisis. Obama himself said that we all need to tighten our belts. But as usual, we didn’t hear one word about the expanding waistlines of the banks, corporations, and super rich. General Electric recently announced that they made a record profit of $14 billion in 2010. And not only did they not pay one cent in taxes, they even received a $3 billion tax refund! GE was only one of many corporations and banks that posted record profits in 2010. How many times do they expect us to fall for the lie that no money exists to pay for the things we need?

The latest federal budget just reminds us once again that the people who run this society don’t represent us. To them, our lives are only useful as things to be exploited or used in their little political games. Every budget they pass, whether it is at the state or federal level, is just another attack on our lives and our futures. They cut our schools, our healthcare, our transportation, or any other service we need, tell us they have no choice, and then hand over billions to the super rich. Whether it is the federal budget or with state budgets, we are expected to take the same punches and swallow the same lies. Maybe it’s time to collect our forces and throw back some punches of our own.