A cease fire has been declared in the most recent budget battle. At least until September when the damn thing is liable to explode like a neutron bomb all over again. In the meantime, as a last minute effort to prevent complete shut down of the federal government which would have put more than 800,000 people out of work and denied paychecks to millions more, including active duty service people currently fighting wars on two fronts, Congress somehow managed to approve a stop gap measure meant to fund the government for another five months.
The funding measure passed in the House by a vote of 260-167. It passed in the Senate by a vote of 81-19. The problem for some legislators were the cuts that came with it. In its final version it cut more than $38.5 billion from the federal budget, while keeping in place tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Some in Congress, like Representative Joe Walsh, a Republican from Illinois, told CNN the cuts don’t go far enough. He said he was disappointed and thought they could have gotten more. While supporting more cuts to social programs for the neediest Americans, Walsh was mum on the subject of the continued tax cuts enacted under former President Bush and renewed under President Obama.
Looking at the programs which were cut in the most recent budget plan it is clear that Congress intends to make the poorest citizens and those most in need of assistance from their government, pay for the most to solve the current budget problems. Federally funded community health centers took the biggest hit this year. Affordable health care is a known problem in the United States, and these community health centers serve mostly people who have no health insurance at all. Despite this fact, Congress saw fit to cut their budget by more than $600 million. That means the 7,000 health centers around the country, who serve more than 20 million people every year, will get about $50 million less every month this year alone. And more cuts will likely come when Congress picks up the budget battle again in the fall.
Also hit hard was the federal program which provides food for pregnant women, children and infants. The program spent more than $7 billion to serve more than 9 million Americans in 2009, but this did not stop Congress from cutting its funding by more than $500 million. Also cut was federal money spent to help the poorest Americans heat their homes in the winter. Each year hundreds of Americans reportedly die from exposure to the cold in their own homes. There are also hundreds of reported space heater fires caused when people resort to portable heating to keep themselves and their families warm through the cold winters because they cannot afford natural gas or heating oil for their furnace. Despite these facts Congress cut the federal budget to provide assistance for these people by almost $400 million.
Finally, despite the fact we are fighting two wars, on two fronts and committing aggressive military action as part of a NATO force on a third front, Congress saw fit to cut $10 million in funding designated for the U.S. Institute for Peace. At some point it seems likely Congress will run out of social programs to cut and have to look at increasing tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, but that point obviously still has not been reached.
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