fresh voices from the front lines of change







Yesterday House Republicans voted on a “cut, cap and balance” bill that would effectively freeze federal spending at less than 20 percent of total gross domestic product (GDP). They insist that they will hold America’s budget and financial solvency hostage unless a balanced budget amendment is sent to the states for ratification. Never mind that this bill has absolutely zero chance of passing the Senate (and the White House has issued a veto threat as well): what we’re witnessing is nothing less than a blatant and morally violent attempt to saddle the middle class, senior citizens and our generation with a chronically low-growth, low-wage and insecure economy.

The GOP wants to cap spending at levels not seen since 1966, when there were 100 million fewer citizens in this country and health care costs were 20 percent of what they are today. Ahh…the good ‘ole days!

This bill isn’t going anywhere. But since this is the budget that the GOP is going to be running on in 2012, it is important to understand exactly what those GOP proposals mean to us, America’s youngest generation and newest graduates from its institutions of higher learning.

To begin with, if you actually read the text of H.R. 2560 (I promise it won’t take long: there is next to zero content) you will see that it has three obvious objectives: cut federal direct spending—that is, unless that spending is related to the War on Terror; cap federal spending as a percentage of GDP to about 20 percent by the year 2021—that is, unless that spending is on Medicare, Social Security, Veterans Benefits and Services, or Net Interest; and pass a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, requiring any future tax increases to be approved by two-thirds of both houses of Congress.

Stop for a second, get out your calculators and think about this. Hold that thought: actually, calculators aren’t even necessary on this one. The GOP approach is simply and irrefutably unworkable: In order to get spending down to those levels, we would have to cut all government programs by 25 percent across the board, including defense and Social Security. But anyone with a brain knows that wouldn’t happen (cuts to Defense!?). What would be more likely is that there would be small cuts to seniors and defense and an enormous two-thirds cut to discretionary non-security spending. What is this discretionary spending? Discretionary non-security spending are items like education, environmental protection, public health, infrastructure development, financial protection. You know…the things that matter to us.

But who cares what matters to us, right? We’re just young people and we’re just starting life: we have plenty of years ahead of us.

Consider this, though: A two-thirds cut to government-funded items like Pell Grants would mean that close to 7 million low-income students would no longer be able to afford a college education. Tuition increases have long risen ahead of the rate of inflation: a two-thirds cut to state education funds could prevent that middle class kid from taking advantage of public universities.

A two-thirds cut to industry safeguards would allow corporations to pollute our air, land and water, spelling disaster for environmental and human health. A two-thirds cut to unemployment benefits would throw our parents who can’t find a job out onto the streets.

And the kicker: A two-thirds cut to federal discretionary non-security spending would sink job creation and plunge our economy back into a recession. Think you have a hard time getting a job or finding a way to pay for graduate school now?!

The GOP has a message for us: If you can’t afford to go to college anymore, tough. If your lungs have to act as the filters for coal plants and increased carbon emissions, buck up. If our bridges just happen to collapse while you’re driving on them, good luck getting compensation from the government. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, kiddies, and the GOP is coming your way bearing its teeth.

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