Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) supports the bill advanced by John Conyers (D-MI), HR 900, to simply cancel the $85 billion in “sequestration” cuts. These cuts will harm millions of low-income Americans, while weakening an already anemic, jobless recovery.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, if the cuts are fully carried out, they will cause a 0.6% drop in GDP and a loss of over 700,000 jobs. The layoffs of 700,000 public employees since 2008 have already contributed to unconscionable levels of unemployment.
We do not have a deficit crisis in this country; we have a jobs crisis. Sequestering will increase the deficit–not decrease it–by slowing the economic recovery and by keeping more people out of work and not paying taxes. We need a 21st-century full employment program to make public investments that help the long-term unemployed and returning veterans find decent jobs that contribute to the economy and to society. The sequester adds to the jobs crisis by reducing extended unemployment benefits and slashing job training programs for returning veterans.
The domestic sequestration cuts will have particularly harsh effects on our poorest and most vulnerable citizens. For the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, they mandate 12% cuts in Title I aid to low-income schools and child nutrition programs (WIC). Seventy thousand children will lose Head Start; 14,000 K-12 school teachers will be laid off; and 600,000 women and infants will be denied nutrition assistance. In addition, 125,000 families will risk homelessness because of cuts in federal rental assistance, and 375,000 mentally ill and disabled citizens will lose desperately needed social services.
The sequester will also cripple the vital work of federal regulatory agencies. The Federal Aviation Administration will have to furlough 4,000 employees each day, leading to massive flight delays and a decrease in flight safety. Over the next seven months, 2,100 fewer food safety inspections will be conducted at food processing plants. In addition, hundreds of thousands of government employees will experience a 12% drop in pay.
Although we should cut massive amounts of Pentagon pork, the automatic cuts in defense instead disproportionately target civilian employees of the Pentagon for layoffs rather than slashing wasteful and unneeded new weapons programs.
Contrary to the corporate-led drumbeat to “Fix the Debt,” we do not have a spending problem in Washington. We have a revenue shortage caused by massive tax giveaways to the rich and corporations. We could achieve fiscal balance by restoring taxes on corporations and the rich to the pre-Reagan rates and by instituting a modest financial transactions tax. In addition, we could create jobs through cutting unnecessary weapons programs and using these funds for public investments in infrastructure, mass transit and alternative energy. The Congressional Progressive Caucus’s “Balancing Act” would carry out these measures.
DSA also rejects President Obama’s flirtation with a cut in the cost-of-living adjustment formula that protects seniors on Social Security from inflation. Instead, DSA backs the call of Alan Grayson (D-FL), Mark Takano (D-CA) and 25 other progressive Democratic members of the House to reject any cuts in the real value of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare benefits.
Rather than cut programs that benefit the vast majority and the vulnerable, we must take steps to secure their future. Future Social Security benefits can be readily guaranteed by removing the $113,700 cap on income subjected to the Social Security payroll tax. And we can rein in runaway health care costs by having the federal government use its huge purchasing power to lower the costs of drugs and by moving towards a Medicare for All system that would eliminate the waste of a for-profit private insurance system.
A brief glance at the disastrous effects of austerity politics in Europe demonstrates that you can’t cut your way out of a Great Recession. The sequester serves only to deepen the economic crisis. It must be reversed.