Conservatives Closing The Roads To Jobs And Recovery

Isaiah J. Poole

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Deborah Weinstein of the Coalition for Human Needs explains how irresponsible federal budget cuts being proposed by conservatives in Congress will ultimately make the economy worse.

The federal budget cuts being proposed by conservatives on Capitol Hill are not just heartless and reckless; they will if enacted "close off the route to jobs" and out of poverty for millions of Americans.

That’s how Deborah Weinstein, the director of the Coalition for Human Needs, describes the impact of the cuts proposed February 11 by the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. The $100 billion in cuts from President Obama’s 2011 budget released over the weekend by the House Appropriations Committee (a $65 billion reduction from actual spending, which is still at 2010 levels) has been described as "madness" by our own Bill Scher, but Weinstein says there is a dangerous method to that madness: a targeting of "the lowest-income, most vulnerable people in this country" in ways that will affect our entire economy.

One of the examples Weinstein offers is YouthBuild U.S.A., a program that helps low-income young people who have dropped out of school avoid getting sucked into criminal activity and channels them into educational and construction job opportunities building affordable housing. It’s a classic win-win program: Young people get mentoring that encourages them to complete their education, they learn valuable skills and develop a work ethic, and low-income and homeless people receive new housing opportunities. This program, which operates in 273 communities in 45 states, costs the taxpayers $100 million a year.

Yet this is one of the programs that House Republicans say we cannot afford because of the deficit that has been exacerbated by the extension of the Bush tax cuts to people earning more than $250,000 a year.

The cuts that the Republicans are proposing, of course, include programs that are more familiar to average Americans, such as the Head Start program. Weinstein said that 200,000 youths would be excluded from the Head Start program if the House cuts are allowed.

Cuts such as these, Weinstein says, will make the nation’s economic and fiscal situation worse, not better. "We can do harm now that will greatly stymie our ability to be a prosperous nation in the future," she says. If we allow Tea Party-crazed conservatives in Congress to gut education, job training and economic development programs now in the name of not saddling future generations with debt, we will saddle future generations with something much worse: an economy that leaves an increasing percentage of its people behind and an economy that is left behind countries that continue to invest in their people and in fundamentals of economic growth.

Weinstein’s organization is helping to lead a new coalition, the Save For All campaign, which says it is "committed to preserving and strengthening our federal capacity to expand opportunity and enable all Americans to obtain economic security." Members of the coalition will be lobbying members of Congress against the budget cuts and encouraging grassroots organizations to emphasize the impact these cuts will have on people during the President’s Day recess next week.

The Save For All coalition released a statement this afternoon about the Republican budget and the 2012 budget proposal the Obama administration released today that said, in part:

The House plan for the remainder of [fiscal year] 2011 makes extreme and damaging cuts disproportionately aimed at jobless and low-income families. It terminates effective jobs programs for the poorest youth, denies Head Start to as many as 200,000 young children, slashes funds for community health centers, heating aid, and other vital community services that will hurt millions of people. It also reduces financial aid for low-income college students and cuts education funding for the most vulnerable children, including those with disabilities. On the other hand, military spending not vital to our national security is increased.

President Obama’s budget for FY 2012, which was released today, is more responsible in recognizing that investments in economic growth, fair revenue increases, and military savings are necessary components of any sensible plan for our future. K-12 education increases are needed investments. There are also important provisions that help low-income people recover from years of hard times, such as restored SNAP/food stamp benefits and improvements in child support policies. But the President’s budget disappoints by making deep cuts to a set of community-based services that enable low-income people to build better lives. These cuts undermine the President’s own economic recovery goals. Making spending cuts two-thirds of his budget’s deficit reduction plan and revenues only one-third is an unwise and unnecessary choice, which has the effect of protecting corporate and upper income interests while needlessly shortchanging low-income families.

Weinstein is encouraging organization leaders to sign a statement in support of the Save for All coalition.

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