Editorial: Legislators punish the wrong people

Brattleboro Reformer

You would think that the way legislators are cutting aid to our nation’s most vulnerable people -- the old, the young, single mothers, the chronically ill, low-income college students -- they are the ones to blame for the financial woes we are experiencing in this country.

Meanwhile, not even lip service is being made to punish the real culprits in this financial debacle -- Wall Street insiders who walked away with billions of dollars as the markets came crashing down around them.

While you might hear about a windfall tax or an increased tax on wealth over and above a certain amount, read below to see what will be cut from the federal budget.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed $1 billion in cuts to the Head Start program, which would not only cut off early education to 200,000 children, it would eliminate 26,000 jobs -- an unusual thing to do when unemployment is close to 9 percent.

That’s 336 Vermont children who would no longer qualify for early education assistance.

And $5.6 billion in Pell grant cuts would reduce or eliminate tuition aid for nearly 1.5 million low- and middle-class students -- 13,000 of them in Vermont.

And $694 million in cuts to Title 1 would reduce or eliminate services for 957,000 high-risk children, while cutting 9,000 education jobs at the same time.

Another $1.3 billion in cuts to community health centers means 37,000 Vermont residents would lose access to low-cost health care.

Do we need to mention plans to cut in half the Low-Income Housing Assistance Program?

Another $337 million in cuts to School Improvement Grants would hurt 483,000 students in this country’s lowest-performing schools. leading to the potential loss of another 4,440 jobs.

Cuts to the Women, Infants and Children program may save money in the short term, but will end up costing the country more in the long term, said John Irons, the research and policy director at the Economic Policy Institute.

"We’ve had data for years that show that whatever we spend in WIC ends up in larger savings to the government in terms of medical payments for delivery and post-natal care," he said. "You’re obviously having long-term costs if kids are less prepared for succeeding in life Š and are less productive as adults."

Republicans also want to reduce Community Development Block grants by 62 percent, which go toward updating infrastructure and expanding affordable housing in communities around the country.

You might object to Planned Parenthood providing abortion services, but it also provides pre-natal care, cervical cancer screenings and testing for HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections.

And say goodbye to Americorps, whose 83,000 members, mostly college students or recent graduates, work for organizations such as our local Boys and Girls Club.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has proposed legislation that would place a 5.4 percent emergency surtax on income above $1 million, which would put up to $50 billion a year in added revenue into an Emergency Deficit Reduction Fund.

"The American people ... understand that we cannot move toward deficit reduction just by cutting programs that working families, the middle class, and low-income people desperately need," stated Sanders. "It is absurd not to ask the wealthiest people in this country to provide additional revenue to help us lower the deficit."

We say more power to you, Bernie, but we know how far his legislation usually gets in the Senate ... about as far as you can throw a big bag of collaterized debt obligations.