Cutting programs for low-income and working-class families while extending tax cuts to the wealthiest citizens was called "a shameful approach" by U. S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8) during a press conference at Alexandria's Campagna Center last Thursday morning. He laid the blame at the feet of the Republican-controlled Congress and the Bush administration.
"This is one of the most irresponsible actions ever taken by Congress. The GOP budget fails to reflect Northern Virginia's core values. One hundred percent of the cuts are coming from programs that represent only 10 percent of the deficit while 90 percent of the deficit comes from tax cuts, the Iraq war and homeland security," Moran said.
"The deep cuts in services vital to working-class and low-income families is immoral, unfair and shameful. The House leadership claims that these spending cuts are to pay for Hurricane Katrina, but, in fact, all of these spending cuts are used to partially pay for extending the Bush tax cuts, which primarily benefit the wealthiest in our society," he said.
MORAN LISTED four particular cuts he found "deeply troubling:"
* Medicaid would lose $12 billion, affecting about 6 million children, of which more than 700,000 are Virginia residents.
* Child support would be cut by $4.9 billion, reducing states' ability to enforce payment from absentee parents.
* Food stamps would be reduced by $844 million, eliminating 300,000 individuals from the program.
* Student loans will be cut by more than $14 billion. This will increase costs for 143,531 borrowers in Virginia.
"These cuts total $30 billion. They are vital programs to working-class and low-income families. And, they are being used to offset the cost of extending $106 billion in tax cuts proposed by the president," Moran said.
"Medicaid cuts will require families to pay premiums and co-payments and they will not be reimbursed for many services such as eye care. The way they are going to save money in the disabled Medicare eligibility area is based on the number that die. In food stamps, legal immigrants will have to be here for seven instead of five years before they are eligible," he told those assembled at the center.
"All of this is going to adversely impact agencies such as the Campagna Center and cities such as Alexandria. The alternative would have been not to proceed with the tax cuts — $106 billion in tax cuts," Moran said.
"This will extend those cuts to 2010. The total cuts will be over $4 trillion over 10 years," he said. "The income gap in this country is widening more than at any time since the great depression of the 1930s. These misplaced priorities are scandalous. Since the tax cuts have been enacted poverty nationwide has increased dramatically."
"This whole thing is just so wrong. Yet, we will pass it next week. As we speak the Budget Committee is going through the reconciliation process which means it can't be stopped," he said.
JOINING MORAN to condemn the actions were Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille; Lavern Jackson Chatman, president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League; Katherine Morrison, executive director of the Campagna Center; and Alberto Quiroga, executive director of the Hispanic Committee of Virginia.
"This is a very important issue and all of us need to wake up and address this. An additional 525,000 Americans went hungry last year than the year before," Euille said.
"We shouldn't be in this war [Iraq] in the first place. We have a war right here. We need to bring the troops home," he said.
"As a mayor, I understand the importance of trimming fat from the budget when times are tough. But, going after programs that help the underprivileged and under served cuts straight to the bone and further weakens already vulnerable communities. The priorities of the House Republican leadership are not the priorities of Alexandria and the rest of mainstream America," Euille said.
"We are devastated by this. All the people we serve will be impacted by this. We have sent out letter to all our representatives to fight this," Chatman said.
"There are Louisianas in every part of this country. We thought Katrina would unveil the poverty. Instead Congress is hurting the poor even more," she said.
"The extreme conservatives in Congress are making the poor and low-income [families] pay the cost of the hurricanes and still not requiring any sacrifice from the wealthy by continuing with new tax breaks. This is not only unfair it's outrageous," Chatman said.
MORRISON THANKED Moran for selecting the Campagna Center as a venue to bring this issue to the public. "Campagna Center has served Alexandria's most vulnerable families for 60 years and we are distressed to imagine the devastation this will cause. These families struggle to feed and clothe their children and provide them with safe environments. These cuts will drastically reduce opportunities to many poor children," she said.
"At a time when our country faces enormous spending pressures from the Iraq war, three recent hurricanes and now a potential avian flu pandemic, we simply should not be reducing taxes and tax revenue. Balancing the cost of more tax cuts on the backs of those least able to afford it is wrong, unfair and will worsen an already difficult situation," Moran stated.
Prior to his remarks, Moran distributed a copy of a an analysis of the proposed cuts by the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Written by Sharon Parrott and Isaac Shapiro, it is titled "Unshared Sacrifice."
They buttress Moran's claim that the basic rationale for the House reconciliation bill, to offset hurricane costs, "is inaccurate. The House proposals do not reflect an approach of shared sacrifice, particularly when viewed as part of an overall budget reconciliation process that also facilitates the adoption of more tax cuts," they state.
"Even though poverty, food insecurity and the number of people lacking health insurance have all been rising, the house bills would ask low-income families to shoulder a large share of the budget-cutting burden, leaving them with less access to needed health care and basic food aid," according to Parrott and Shapiro.
"Rather than asking those high-income households to share in the sacrifice, the House is planning to pass a new round of tax cuts under the same fast-track reconciliation process being used to push through the program cuts. These tax cuts … would further exacerbate income inequality, which is already exceptionally large and growing," they said.
They also pointed out that the program cuts would "not reduce the deficit or pay hurricane-related costs, but rather help to-pay for the new tax cuts." The later will cost more than the cuts can provide, according to the writers.
Parrott and Shapiro accused the House leadership of placing this burden on low-income families because they are "a politically weak constituency" as compared to "politically powerful" wealthy constituents. Households with incomes of more than $1 million per year are receiving tax cuts that average $103,000 per year, Parrott and Shapiro stated.
Moran urged those present to carefully read the study. It can be acquired by calling the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at 202-408-1080.