The Senate must call the bluff of House Republicans who are demanding deeper cuts in Head Start, Meals on Wheels and other programs for working families, Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Sunday. A proposal set for a House vote this week includes the deeper spending cuts in a continuing resolution to keep the government from shutting down after the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The proposal would lock in across-the-board cuts known as sequestration but carve out an exception for the Pentagon, which would get a $20-billion boost.
A member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders said it would be a “tragic mistake” and a “terrible precedent” if the Senate were to go along with the House and further slash programs for children, the elderly, working families and the most vulnerable people in this country.
If the Senate accepts the House Republican plan, Sanders said in a letter to Senate colleagues, “more Americans will lose their jobs; more children will be thrown off of Head Start; more Americans will be unable to afford to send their kids to child care; more teachers will be thrown out on the street; more senior citizens will go hungry; and more working families will be unable to heat their homes this winter. In the richest country on the face of the earth, that would be morally repugnant and bad economic policy.”
The proposal by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would result in a $1 billion, 12 percent, cut in Head Start compared to 2002 spending levels. A $2.3 billion cut in education programs for disadvantaged children would represent a 14 percent cut since 2010. Home heating assistance for the elderly and families with children would be slashed by more than $1.8 billion compared to 2010, a 35 percent cut. Another $1.4 billion would be lopped off a program that provides affordable housing for working families with children, a 60 percent cut compared to three years ago.
In addition to the direct impact of the cuts, the Congressional Budget Office projected that sequestration would result in the loss of 900,000 jobs and cause a significant 0.7 percent drop in gross domestic product next year.
“Many of us have fought to replace these harmful cuts by closing tax loopholes that benefit the most profitable corporations and wealthiest people in this country, but not one Republican has joined us in this effort.” Sanders said. “At a time when 21.5 million Americans are unemployed or under-employed, and the number of Americans living in poverty is near an all-time high, the American people cannot take even more austerity,” he added.
To read Sanders’ letter, click here.