Balancing the Budget: Not an Excuse to Cut Needed ProgramsJune 08, 2011
The news from Washington, D.C., these days is dominated by discussions of the rapidly approaching debt ceiling and the “generational challenge” of the national debt. One of the most talked about reactions to these issues is the budget that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) proposed, which passed the House in April but failed in the Senate in May. This budget would dramatically cut federal student aid and turn Medicare and Medicaid into voucher programs. The budget’s defenders argue that these drastic cuts are necessary because America is going “broke,” so significant changes to federal spending must be made in order to balance the budget.
Of course, these are tough economic and budgetary times, but there is a right way and a wrong way to balance the budget. A balanced budget should not come on the backs of students, women, and working families in the name of helping America’s corporations get richer by lowering their taxes. A balanced budget should not be achieved by cutting job training programs, student aid, and unemployment insurance in the middle of a recession. And a balanced budget should definitely not be achieved by cutting welfare programs that provide food to needy families and Head Start assistance to disadvantaged children.
However, there are smart, nondestructive ways we can work to balance the budget. For example, the Social Security Administration just announced it will soon electronically deposit almost all benefits checks, a move it expects will save the government $1 billion over the next 10 years. Additionally, a recent government analysis found dozens of duplicative and unnecessary regulations still on the books whose enforcement costs the government millions every year. Reducing unnecessary costs will not only reduce government spending, it will also enable government agencies to focus on their key priorities of protecting Americans’ rights, health, and safety.
Yet cutting government spending is only part of the equation. We should work to protect the investments that are vital to our nation’s economic advancement, but we must also make our income tax system more equitable. The Bush-era tax cuts, which just celebrated their 10th anniversary, disproportionately benefited top earners, did little to help middle- or low-income families, and exacerbated the trend of widening income inequality. Restoring our tax system to former tax levels where everyone bears an equal burden will go a long way to restoring our nation’s solvency.
As Congress focuses on reducing the federal deficit, it has the potential to either improve our overall economic situation or make matters even worse for our economy and our most vulnerable citizens. AAUW will work to promote a smart, equitable budget that protects all Americans.
As AAUW’s 2009–2011 Public Policy Program declares, “Basic to all of AAUW’s public policy efforts is the understanding that true equity requires a balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of the community.”