Conservative Cuts Have Consequences

Terrance Heath

Whatever you may think of him, you’ve got to give Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) credit. He said he would present his own budget, and now he’s done it. He’s even taken to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to defend it, and challenge Republicans and Democrats to: find other places in the budget where cuts can be made, to replace particular programs; consider whether it is worth “borrowing billions from foreign nations,” to fund programs “that could be administered better at the state and local level, or even taken over by the private sector.”

Paul’s challenge underscores the dishonesty of his budget, as well as those proposed by other conservatives. Paul and other conservatives wear their proposed budget as badges of honor, but they lack the courage to state clearly the human impact of their budget cuts, and the candor to confess the unreality of their proposals.

Dr. Paul, budgets with a meat cleaver, hacking some government agencies out of existence. Others are all but eliminated, and simply sliced within an inch of their lives. A few more are left on life support (for now) and in the care of the agencies that still stand (for now.)

The body count and wounded list include:

  • The Department of Education – Cut 85%, with only the Pell grant program surviving.
  • The Department of Energy – Cut 100%, with the Department of Defense taking over its remaining functions — like nuclear waste, for example.-
  • Housing and Urban Development Cut 100%, veterans’ housing programs transferred to the VA.
  • Affordable Housing Program – Cut 100%.
  • Consumer Protection Safety Commission – Cut 100%.
  • Food and Drug Administration – Cut 62%.

Also up for massive reductions: the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration, the Commerce Department, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Science Foundation.

It’s almost impossible to cover all of the human consequences of Sen. Paul’s proposed cuts in one blog post, as they would impact millions of Americans across the country. But the reality is that the programs he and other conservatives want to cut are designed to solve specific problems that real people are having. The GOP has all kinds of plans to reduce, cut, or eliminate these programs and much-needed services they provide but no plans to replace them.

A Lexington Herald editorial suggests the best place to start is with the impact of Paul’s cuts on his own Kentucky constituents.

If his plan had been in place in 2007-08, the year before the Great Recession, Kentucky’s public schools would have been $711 million poorer. Fayette County schools would have lost $31 million and the schools in Warren County, Paul’s home, $11 million.

As Paul points out, federal money can’t be used any way local districts choose and comes with “red tape.” Indeed, federal dollars are largely targeted at leveling the playing field for poor and disabled children.

Kentucky last year received $147 million through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, money that educates disabled children and that would go away if Paul had his way.

Also lost to Kentucky would be $435 million for schools with high percentages of low-income students and $7 million through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, named for a Kentuckian in Congress whose values could not have been more different than Paul’s.

He would eliminate the Consumer Product Safety Commission and cut the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees food safety, by 62 percent. He wants to reduce funding for the National Park Service by 42 percent, eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and privatize the Smithsonian Institution. He would cut the National Science Foundation by 62 percent because he thinks private industry should be in charge of research.

Blaming food stamps for obesity among the poor, he wants to reduce spending on the program to 2008 levels. The average food stamp allotment for a household in Kentucky last month was $276.

Near the end of Paul’s WSJ column, he says that his budget cuts “wasteful spending in the Department of Defense.” The problem is that his proposed defense undermine his first challenge.Paul says that the annual defense budget had increased by nearly 120% since 2001, and that even subtracting the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan only brings that increase down to 67%.

The problem is that, in a budget that all but eliminates some departments, Paul cuts just 6.5%, or $47.6 billion, from Department of Defense. In fact, Rand’s cuts are less than half the $100 billion in cuts proposed by Defense Sec. Robert Gates.

Paul might want to reconsider his first challenge to his colleagues on either side of the aisle, to find other places to cut, and sit down with Sec. Gates first.

I’ll get to Paul’s other challenge, and the impact of his budget proposals in the states, in another posts. But the snapshot of consequences in Kentucky underscores a point driven home at the end of the Lexington Herald editorial.

Paul pines for a land built on libertarian theory. But the country of his ideals is a place that few Americans would want to leave their children.

It’s a place that few Americans want to live in, or want their children to live in, today.

As the Lexington Herald op-ed says, in drafting his budget plan Sen. Paul had the luxury of knowing that no one in Congress would take it seriously. But that doesn’t mean he’s not serious about it, and that goes for other conservatives like him.

Along with others presented by The Republican Study Group and Rep. Paul Ryan, Paul’s budget illustrates the enormous fiscal challenges we’re facing. Looking at the human consequences conservatives don’t want to talk about illustrates they have no plans to relieve the economic pain of Americans caught in the economic and unemployment crises.

Conservatives know their proposed budget cuts have consequences that a majority of Americans know conservative budget cuts have consequences, and a majority of Americans reject those consequences. That’s why they don’t want to admit that their cuts have consequences. And that’s why we must raise the human consequences of conservative budget cuts, every chance we get.

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