Jonathan Cohn

'The Priorities ... Are Upside Down'

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The spending cuts House Republicans want to pass are too numerous for me to catalog. But the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is up to the task:

Some 157,000 at-risk children up to age 5 could lose education, health, nutrition, and other services under Head Start, while funds for Pell Grants that help students go to college would fall by nearly 25 percent, under a Republican proposal on the House floor to cut current-year (2011) non-security discretionary funding by 13.8 percent.

That proposal also would kill a program that helps low-income families weatherize their homes and permanently reduce their home energy bills, cut federal funds for employment and training services for jobless workers and for clean water and safe drinking water by more than half, and raise the risk that the WIC nutrition program may not be able to serve all eligible low-income women, infants, and children under age 5. In addition, it would cut funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 22 percent, for the Food and Drug Administration by 10 percent, and for the Food Safety Inspection Service by 9 percent.

The House GOP proposal does not apply its overall 13.8 percent cut on an across-the-board basis. Some cuts, such as the 5.9 percent reduction in funding for House of Representatives staff salaries and expenses, would be smaller. But many important programs, including some of the ones listed above, would be cut much more to make up the difference. ...

The larger context in which the House is debating H.R. 1 is revealing as well. This week’s debate comes just two months after December’s extension of tax cuts for high-income taxpayers that were scheduled to expire on December 31. House Republicans now claim that the nation cannot afford to maintain the $1.1 billion in Head Start funding that could help improve lifetime opportunities for 157,000 disadvantaged children after Republican congressional leaders insisted two months ago that we must spend scores of billions a year to provide tax cuts for the most affluent 2 percent of Americans (and threatened to end unemployment benefits for, and raise taxes on, millions of less fortunate Americans if they did not get their way). The priorities represented by the proposed cuts in H.R. 1 and the enacted tax cuts for the wealthy are upside down.

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