I’d like to see YOU jump without a safety net: Why the Republicans’ Budget Proposal is Morally Bankrupt

8 Apr

Darling CF’s, Today, I bring you your regularly scheduled crunk policy analysis.

I am a bit of a policy nerd, admittedly. Not because I enjoy inaccessible wonkery, but because I think it informs my activism to know as much as I can about the intricacies of policy proposals and political agendas.

That said, I must confess that I find budgets to be completely tedious and almost incomprehensible pieces of policy. BUT, they are arguably the most important pieces of policy there are. Nothing happens unless it is funded: almost no policy can implemented without a funding stream, without a designation of where the money will come from. Public programs, the military, the post office – all exist only so long as we fund them. In the USA, if we believe in something we have to put our money where our mouth is, and in the case of public programs like food access for the poor, it’s rather literal.

So, the current goings on in Washington are not a specific-issue based fight. This is not about how much money goes for a particular program, or not. Though, it may seem so at first glance. It is a fight over the very structure and function of our government.

Last night, mere hours from a government shutdown meetings between President Obama, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) were still ongoing. The government budget is the major point of contention. The Republican leadership reportedly wants anywhere from 40-33 billion dollars in spending cuts to domestic programs, and the Administration and Democratic leadership are trying to keep the country running without having to concede such drastic cuts.

Soon, this issue will be resolved. The government won’t shut down for long, if it shuts down at all. What’s more important here are the pivot points in this debate.

What do conservative consider to be “wasteful spending?” Republican Senator Paul Ryan’s budget would slash the safety net programs for people living in poverty and those fast-approaching poverty. Programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Yep, this would save money, in a manner of speaking, and likely only in the short term. It would increase the burden on the most vulnerable among us – those of us that are low income, women, people of color, people with disabilities, people who need health care… the list goes on, and these identities intersect.

But you know what would REALLY save some big bucks? Eliminating or reducing funding for one or two of the wars we’re in. Or perhaps cutting the federally funded health care that’s afforded to all Congresspeople. Or maybe ending some (or all) of the tax subsidies we give to corporations. Those things would save some money, for real.  Or we could just tax the rich. This attempt at targeting safety net services, isn’t about saving money, it’s about cementing the socio-economic strata in our society. The rich will get richer and the poor won’t have a chance in hell. Never mind your bootstraps, this is the final blow from which the American Dream (mythical as it is) will never recover.

Without consistent support from the government in the form of public programs, the middle class can’t grow. People fall into poverty and have no recourse for getting out of it without robust health care, education and community engagement programs. I realize this might sound a little alarmist, but if we carry the conservative ideal of limited government to it’s logical conclusion, specifically if the limits are placed on public and social programs, then this is the path we’re on.

Our challenge is to redefine this debate to be about human flourishing, not about the government’s role as an abstract entity. Because I believe that the right to be free from poverty is a right that we have to fight for. And to put our money where our mouth is.

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8 Responses to “I’d like to see YOU jump without a safety net: Why the Republicans’ Budget Proposal is Morally Bankrupt”

  1. Betsy K. April 8, 2011 at 5:32 AM #

    Very well said. The Republicans have been trying to limit the federal government for years. Their efforts to do so are nothing less than wars on the poor and the middle class and the programs that support them. it is beyond mean-spiritedness.

  2. Shannon Drury April 8, 2011 at 6:44 AM #

    Great post. They don’t believe in a minimum for all–they want the maximum for very few. Unconscionable.

  3. Erika April 8, 2011 at 7:09 AM #

    Although from an idealogical perspective I agree with your commentary, from a real world perspective, I disagree.

    At some point, each of us must realize that we must take care of ourselves! We must be responsible for our survival and well-being! Its not up to some government entity to do it for us! Its an individual and community solution, not some piece of legislation far removed from the citizens its theoretically assisting.

    When do we stop allowing labels to disable and handicap us? When do we know and then act cuz the government aint a knight in shining armor or a messiah come to deliver the masses!

    Change and getting what we need to live, is on each and every one of us as individuals! Period. Depending on social services that can be cut @ any given moment, not the answer! Never was and never will be!

    No one owes us, we owe ourselves!

  4. sheridf April 8, 2011 at 8:41 AM #

    @Erika. The personal responsibility mantra only works when we have social safety nets because we have to remember that without them corporations (who act as organizations not individuals) know that we cannot fight them as individuals and win. The less of a safety net we have, the more power they have to maintain the gender pay gap; to discriminate against people of color/immigrants/queer/trans/disabled people etc. in terms of job opportunities and advancement; to keep wages and benefits as low as possible without individuals having very little if any recourse.
    They are challenging planned parenthood and environmental regulations not real money stuff, but the overall point of the post is that they (Republicans as the primary voice of big corporations) are beating back the last remaining meager regulations of corporations at a federal level while simultaneously doing the same at the state and local levels of government to attract “jobs.” This is another major shift of the balance of power from citizens to corporate rule. It is dire times and as individuals we LOSE, particularly when we have minimal rights to challenge big monied entities. This is so much bigger than personal responsibility–it is our personal responsibility to fight for the poor and working class. As black women we often think in terms of personal responsibility and end up depressed, sick, and dying because we don’t ask for help when we need it because of that mindset. We need to be thinking in terms of personal care and that means collective fighting for our rights to a social safety net, particularly when we are often hanging off the bottom rung or the social/economic hierarchy.

    • Jaleesa April 11, 2011 at 4:03 PM #

      This whole comment is on point. It’s so easy to start bleating about people needing to be personally responsible when you have the privilege (or luck) to NOT have to worry that everything you have and NEED is being taken away from you. The entire black community suffers from us not being able to ask for help or to respect others when they need help, not just women.

      First comment here, obviously, but I just needed to come out of lurking to add on to this. It’s always painful for me to see that sort of cruelty coming from someone who should understand what it’s like.

  5. Fallon April 8, 2011 at 9:07 AM #

    “Or perhaps cutting the federally funded health care that’s afforded to all Congresspeople. Or maybe ending some (or all) of the tax subsidies we give to corporations. Those things would save some money, for real. Or we could just tax the rich.”

    I so agree! Can someone tell the lackluster democrats this or perhaps support other parties or non-party people who are willing to stand on these things . ..

  6. wordLife April 9, 2011 at 10:37 AM #

    Short, sweet & exactly how I feel. Thanks for this insightful analysis!

  7. Ekua April 14, 2011 at 8:50 AM #

    Thanks sis, this is really on point. We have to remember that if we are a part of a multi-tiered movement for the healing and liberation of all people, then we must have a multitude of tactics happening all at once. While there must exist the voices who are fighting this particular kind of blatant injustice which seeks to strip us of the meager resources we have, there must also exist those of us who work to build new and self-reliant structures for the community. While we seek to keep the safety net intact (because we would be totally fucked if it were snatched out from under us right now), we also seek to create a community in which eventually we won’t need that safety net anymore. This entails the work of relearning to grow plants for food and medicine and remembering how to heal ourselves, each other, and the earth on levels beyond the physical. Private collaborative enterprise. This is communal and individual work, radical direct action and radical self care/love. We must work on all planes of existence if we are truly seeking to restore harmony.

    …and we must also know our roles and play them well.

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