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Big winners and big losers in budget

Marian Wright Edelman | 4/13/2015, 10:03 a.m.
In the House and Senate budget proposals for fiscal year 2016, passed with only Republican votes at the end of ...
Marian Wright Edelman

"A budget is a moral document; it talks about where your values are."Representative Rob Woodall (R-GA) discussing the House Budget Committee’s FY2016 Proposal

"There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children." — President Nelson Mandela

In the House and Senate budget proposals for fiscal year 2016, passed with only Republican votes at the end of March, there are big winners and big losers. The big winners are defense spending and contractors and very wealthy people and powerful special interests. The big losers are children, our poorest group in America, and struggling low- and middle-income families trying to stay afloat in our economy.

Very big winners: Defense spending and contractors. The House and Senate Republican budgets add $38 billion more in defense spending above the Pentagon’s request in fiscal year 2016. Instead of being up front and including it in the regular defense department budget, it was added to a catch-all war fund not subject to budget caps. This is a budget gimmick some conservatives have decried as deceptive and fiscally irresponsible. The $38 billion additional defense spending could provide 2.5 million subsidized jobs to poor families with children lifting 1.2 million children from poverty; and double the Head Start program, which serves only 40 percent of children who need it, for one year. The House Republican budget goes much further adding $387 billion in defense spending between 2017-2025. This amount could lift 60 percent of our children out of poverty for five years.

Very big winners: Very wealthy people. People making more than $1 million a year would get a $50,000 average tax cut from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) in the House budget. The overall taxpayer loss would be more than $1 trillion in revenue over 10 years. The Senate budget includes a last-minute amendment to repeal the estate tax, which benefits only the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans with estates worth over $5.4 million for an individual or $10.9 million for a couple. An estimated 5,400 wealthy estates would save $2.5 million each with a taxpayer loss of $269 billion dollars between 2016-2025. This morally indefensible government giveaway for super rich people could provide housing subsidies for 10 years for 2.6 million poor and near-poor families with children struggling to find a place to live and reduce child poverty by 21 percent; or pay for the President’s $80 billion proposed investment for child care subsidies for all low-income children under 4 and $75 billion for quality preschool for low-income 4 year olds and extend through 2025 Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit improvements that keep 1 million children out of poverty.

Very big losers: Vulnerable children and low- and middle- income families. Under the guise of balancing the budget and cutting the deficit, recklessly unjust massive cuts of more than $3 trillion over 10 years will undermine lifelines of stability and hope. The House and Senate Republican budgets will cut programs for those who need help most and increase government welfare for those who need help least.