I consider education, healthcare, housing and nutrition to be necessary items that Congress has an obligation to fund. My Republican colleagues disagree and are urging Congress to pass the following cuts:
Pass $10 billion in Medicaid cuts to health services for poor children and long-term care patients.
Pass $844 million in Nutrition Program cuts, which would kick 300,000 families out of the program and leave 40,000 children ineligible for free school lunches.
Pass $14 billion in cuts to student aid programs, which would increase the interest rates and fees that some students pay and amount to the largest cut in the history of the student loan program.
Pass $470 million in cuts to federal housing rehab grants, which would eliminate the program used to make rental units available to low income families.
In the wake of a devastating hurricane season, Republicans claim they have no choice but to rob Peter in order to pay Paul. They would have us believe that cutting programs for seniors, students and families is the only way to pay for needed assistance in the Gulf Coast. I couldn't disagree more, and the people of Kentucky should not be fooled by the smoke and mirrors. The programs they are cutting to supposedly help Katrina victims are actually some of the very programs that Katrina victims depend on the most.
The Bush Administration has stated that more than 500,000 evacuee families from Hurricane Katrina have received emergency help to pay for food, clothing and other essentials. FEMA is reported to be spending about $23 billion on housing and individual assistance. In addition, the Department of Education proposed up to $227 million to help displaced adults who owe money on their student loans. Congressional Republicans are cutting these programs and other programs that are assisting hurricane victims.
These choices may seem inexplicable, but there is a very simple explanation. It is abundantly clear that the Republicans' proposed cuts are not to pay for hurricane rebuilding and recovery; these cuts are all about keeping a Republican tax cut for the wealthiest of Americans. Despite all the demands on our nation today, Republicans in Washington are preparing to move forward with $106 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and are asking the least fortunate to pay the bill.
As Congress continues its work on reconciling the checkbook of our country, I will urge my colleagues to abandon this irresponsible budget plan. This Congress must work to assure that we don't burden our children with mountains of debt; however, cutting programs vital to our most vulnerable citizens while cutting taxes for the wealthy and powerful is the wrong way to do it. It would be bad enough if Washington Republicans were only robbing Peter to pay Paul. But they're not paying Paul. They're paying the millionaires and the special interests. That should never be acceptable - and especially in these trying times in America - it is truly unconscionable.
Editor's note: Ben Chandler is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Kentucky's 6th District, covering 16 counties in central Kentucky, including Jessamine. This column was written in response to the House's consideration of HR 4241, a budget reconciliation bill. Chandler also spoke on the floor of the House against the bill. For more information about HR 4241, visit the U.S. House of Representatives' Budget Committee Web site at http://www.budget.house.gov/reconsum110805.htm|