When Congress returns to work next week, the first order of business will be to work out the differences in the deficit reduction plans passed by the House and Senate.
Your task is to pressure your representatives into doing the right thing.
“Impossible!” you say. “They could care less about what is best for me or this country. All they care about is themselves.”
Precisely! The majority only care about their re-election. However the reformers have momentum. That is why your input at this time is crucial. You would be surprised at how little effort it takes to scare your representatives into acting responsibly.
Before you make those phone calls and write those e-mails and letters (I recommend doing all three) here are some things you should know:
There are two types of federal spending: mandatory and discretionary. When most people think of mandatory programs, they think of Social Security and Medicare. In reality, Congress has pushed more and more things into the mandatory category in order to protect members’ “sacred cows” from the give and take of the annual budget process.
Unfortunately, when most of these sacred cows were placed in the mandatory category, they were pre-programmed to be increased each year at alarming rates, completely unrelated to the rate of inflation. Many actually contain perverse incentives. They are little spaceships on automatic pilot headed toward the spending stratosphere.
The House budget reconciliation package, which contains some $50 billion in savings, actually makes some much needed changes to these mandatory programs which are eating us alive.
The Senate version does little in the area of reform. However, it would bring in some additional revenue by opening up a tiny portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and by allowing states to have discretion over whether to allow new leasing for oil or natural gas within 125 miles of their coastlines. In addition to the money – which would be nice – this would ease our dependence on foreign oil, which should be a national priority.
Bottom line: Take the estimated $3.5 billion in oil and gas revenues from the Senate bill and add that to the real cuts and reforms in mandatory programs from the House bill. Every red-blooded taxpayer should demand nothing less!
In the last five years, mandatory programs have grown by a whopping 28 percent, but two of the most egregious –Medicaid and Food Stamps – have grown 56 percent and 79 percent respectively. Meanwhile, the 1996 welfare reform legislation has cut caseloads in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program by 60 percent.
Unfortunately, the initial work requirements have lapsed. According to a welfare study by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, more than half of the caseload of TANF resides in states where recipients can refuse to work or prepare for work and still collect benefits. And, surprise, surprise, Rector discovered that most children could be lifted out of poverty altogether, if they had a parent who would put in a typical 40-hour work week.
Believe it or not, one of the sticking points in the package of cuts proposed by the House is that it would sanction states that don’t require able-bodied welfare recipients to spend 40 hours a week working or preparing for work, instead of the previous requirement of 16 hours per week. How cruel to make those on the public dole work as hard as the taxpayers who are footing the bill!
The big reasons liberal lawmakers don’t want the work requirements strengthened is it would reduce the poverty rolls even further and make it harder to justify maintaining many of these bloated welfare programs.
Liberal Democrats are working to keep the dependent class dependent! The conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats have headed for the tall grass. As for the Republicans, there are the RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) and the timid. They don’t want anyone wagging a finger at them and accusing them of cutting money for the poor, however bloated or misguided the program may be.
We must send a message to these folks that there is nothing compassionate about spending our money on wasteful entitlement programs now growing at alarming rates.
Mandatory spending now constitutes 54 percent of the federal budget. If left unchecked, it will absorb 62 percent in just 10 years. This simply cannot be sustained!
Despite “the end of the world as we know it” rhetoric, the savings over the next five years, amount to only one-third of 1 percent.
This is just a baby step in the right direction but, if this fails, the hope of any future reform will be lost.