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Monday, October 17, 2005

Cutting the Budget at the Center of House Agenda

This is not the solution to the budget problem I was hoping for. Balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, particularly when the weight has been shifted due to tax cuts, is not my notion of an equitable change in the tax burden. If cuts are to be made, there must be a better place to start than with items like health care for the poor:

House GOP Leaders Set to Cut Spending Leadership Shake-Up Spurred Policy Shift, by Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post: House Republican leaders have moved from balking at big cuts in Medicaid and other programs to embracing them, driven by pent-up anger from fiscal conservatives concerned about runaway spending and the leadership's own weakening hold on power. Beginning this week, the House GOP lawmakers will take steps to cut as much as $50 billion from the fiscal 2006 budget for health care for the poor, food stamps and farm supports, as well as considering across-the-board cuts in other programs. Only last month, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) ... told a packed room of reporters on Sept. 13 that 11 years of Republican rule had already pared down the federal budget "pretty good." ... But faced with a revolt among many conservatives sharply critical of him for resisting spending cuts, DeLay three weeks later told a closed meeting of the House Republican Conference, "I failed you," according to a number of House members and GOP aides. Then, in a nod to the most hard-core conservatives, DeLay volunteered, "You guys filled a void in the leadership." The abrupt shift reflects a changed political dynamic in the House in which a faction of fiscal conservatives -- known as the Republican Study Committee, or RSC -- has gained the upper hand because of DeLay's criminal indictment in Texas, widespread criticism of the Republicans' handling of Hurricane Katrina, and uncertainty over the future of the leadership, according to lawmakers and aides. Now, cutting the budget -- which only months ago seemed far from possible -- is at the center of the agenda in the House. ... But Republicans could be taking a big risk by cutting Medicaid programs while their standing in the polls has plummeted and Democrats gear up for a fight. "We have seen a sea change in the budget policies of House Republicans," said Thomas S. Kahn, the Democratic staff director of the House Budget Committee. "Clearly, the RSC's influence over their budget policies is in the ascendancy."...

The rest of the article contains an interesting account of the politics in the background. With respect to the budget cuts to items like health care for the poor, food stamps, and farm supports, I expect a political firestorm, but a faint voice reminds me to not to be so sure. Outrage is spread pretty thin these days.

[Update: Please read Brad DeLong's post about this story here. Even given Brad's comments about this not being anything new, save for 3 billion, the focus of the discussion in congress and the potential change in power within congress is still of concern because it indicates where future deficit reduction efforts will be focused.]

    Posted by on Monday, October 17, 2005 at 01:34 AM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (3)


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