Last Friday, after nearly shutting down the government, Congressional leaders agreed to a short-term budget deal that will cut $38 billion in spending for the last 6 months of this fiscal year. The spending cuts are the largest in American history and will likely have a disproportionate impact on Latinos and other disadvantaged communities. The battle hints at the high-stakes political drama to come over the debt ceiling and the next fiscal year.
Details of the backroom deal trickled out late Monday night. What stuck out was that, despite their relative small size (28%), education, labor and health programs faced more than half (52%) of the cuts. Our analysis shows that many of the targeted programs are heavily utilized by American Latinos.
While President Obama has called many of the cuts "painful" and political analysts declared the battle a victory for Republicans, Congressional Democrats were able to negotiate saving key programs that were in the crosshairs such as Head Start, Planned Parenthood, Public Broadcasting, Pell Grants and "Race to the Top," which provides grants to better-performing schools.
However, compromising is costly. My colleagues at Voto Latino have identified some of the most counterproductive cuts yet, as they relate to our community's concerns:
- $500 million from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) low-income food program (35% of beneficiaries are Latinos).
- $3.5 billion from the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which would award states who enroll the most uninsured children (1 in 5 Latino children are uninsured).
- $600 million cut from community health centers (39% of Latinos are uninsured).
- $2.2 billion from the new COOPS program, which allows community health organizations to come together to create health care cooperatives, leading to lower costs.
- $17 million in Title X family planning and reproductive health services (23% of beneficiaries are Latino).
- $1 billion for HIV prevention (Latinos account for 20% of all new HIV diagnoses).
- $1.6 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, a 16% decrease, including49 million cut from climate change programs.
- $438 million to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
- $500 million in Pell Grants, preventing year-round funding (1 million Latinos benefit from college Pell Grants)
- $317 million from literacy programs including Striving Readers and Even Start (39% of Latino adults have less than basic literacy levels).
- $2 billion from Public Housing and Community Development programs (30% of Latinos are low income).
- $200 million in aid to Puerto Rico, which does not even receive political representation in the House or Senate.
- $23 million for the Americorps community volunteer program.
- $75 million in Election Assistance Grants to improve election practices.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Hispanic Task Force, convened for the first time last week with the purpose of looking at how the budget would affect the Latino community. After criticizing some of the proposed cuts and their impact on Latinos, Senator Menendez said, "Show me your budget, and I'll show you your values."
Not only are many of these cuts inhumane, but they show a disregard for basic services that Latinos use every day.
All the while, despite clear public preferences, Defense Spending was increased by $5 billion, bringing it to a total of $513 billion with an additional $157.8 billion to fund our missions aboard.
Keeping it classy
Overall, the budget battles have demonstrated how close to the brink our representatives came to letting the government shut down, how it still could shut down in the near future and have also illustrated how polarizing the political environment is.
The result allowed Speaker Boehner to claim a victory in making historic cuts to the federal budget, which has pleased some members of the Tea Party who complain about the size of government. President Obama can claim that he helped bring two sides together, while Democrats averted some of the worst aspects of the proposed GOP cuts.
The battle will continue, with the fight over the "debt ceiling" (i.e. the Government's credit card limit) potentially more tense than what we experienced over the last few weeks because the country could go into default. Already, the GOP is demanding more cuts before raising the ceiling, which Democrats say creates a threat to economic stability.
President Obama will be revealing a plan to reduce the long-term deficit today. There is a lot at stake for everyday Americans, some of whom are fasting to protest what they call an "inhumane budget." Others, like our team at Voto Latino, wonder how the administration can claim transparency while negotiating budget deals behind closed doors.
We know the President plans to again propose ending the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich. Will he also end subsidies to oil companies and close corporate tax loopholes? Will we ever tackle the increase of Defense spending? How will we grow as a country and "win the future" with the continued cuts against education, labor, health and human services?
A detailed list of program cuts is here.