On Wednesday, The New York Times published an editorial bashing the way sequestration has been implemented. The editorial specifically highlighted how Republicans are trying to prevent certain cuts from happening…but not others the Times says should be high-priority:
You don’t see any Republican hashtags blaming the president for cutting housing vouchers to 140,000 low-income families, which has begun. These vouchers are given by cities to families on the brink of homelessness, and about half of them go to families with children.
There aren’t any angry tweets about the 70,000 Head Start slots about to be eliminated, which is forcing some school districts to distribute these valuable services by lottery. Or about the cuts to Vista, which is hurting the program that performs antipoverty work in many states. Or the 11 percent cut in unemployment benefits for millions of jobless workers.
The voiceless people who are the most affected by these cuts can’t afford high-priced lobbyists to get them an exception to the sequester, the way that the agriculture lobby was able to fend off a furlough to meat inspectors, which might have disrupted beef and poultry operations. And what was cut in order to keep those inspectors on the job? About $25 million from a program to provide free school breakfasts.
As bad as the sequester was, it is being made worse by these special-interest demands for exceptions, as well as politically motivated attempts to deflect the responsibility for pain.
Yesterday, this blog discussed whether many federal dollars should even be going out in programs being hit by sequestration. Should Head Start even exist at the federal level? Should housing vouchers come from the federal government? Many Tea Party activists offer a resounding “No!”
Yet the Times´ position raises an important question: what should be cut first? When I worked on Capitol Hill, I met with representatives of Habitat for Humanity. They were facing potential budget cuts in the April 2011 budget discussions (the deal that cut $100 billion $68 billion $38 billion $350 million from the 2011 budget). After that meeting, I realized the main error in the Roadmap Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was presenting to the nation – it went after Habitat for Humanity, programs for poor single mothers, etc. while leaving subsidies, tax credits, and corporate welfare largely intact.
Should Habitat for Humanity be getting money from Washington? Probably not. Certainly federal welfare programs need to be fundamentally reformed or eliminated before money to rebuild homes for the indigent are reduced. However, cutting money from free school breakfasts is not a priority when approximately 10% of the budget is wasted on duplicated programs. Similarly, poor mothers should not take the hit before corporate executives who game the system at the expense of all Americans.
The federal government needs a large haircut, and soon, if the nation is to avoid a fiscal crisis. Sequestration can’t do the job alone. If Washington is really intent on making only cuts required by the sequester instead of real spending cuts and reforms, though, it would be far better to target corporate welfare long before hitting school breakfast funding.