Cuts not 'hard choices' for most Republicans

WASHINGTON --The politicians who favor cutting taxes on the wealthy typically proclaim their desire to encourage hard work, personal responsibility and family values.

WASHINGTON --The politicians who favor cutting taxes on the wealthy typically proclaim their desire to encourage hard work, personal responsibility and family values.

So why are House Republican leaders pushing a budget that, when it comes to our neediest fellow citizens, is a direct assault on ... hard work, personal responsibility and family values?

Here are some things those leaders don't want you to know. Their cuts in food stamps would eliminate from the program 225,000 people in working households with children. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, some 330,000 children in working families would lose child care assistance because of inadequate funding in the bill.

Fathers who don't live with their families ought to support their kids when they can afford to, right? Then why does the House propose cuts for child support enforcement?

Do you honor families who help foster kids? Then why cut $397 million in foster care payments to relatives who take in children removed from their parents' homes? Isn't it remarkable that congressional conservatives who think we can afford $70 billion worth of tax cuts in this budget -- meaning the budget actually increases the deficit -- can't come up with that $400 million for foster kids? It gives "compassionate conservatism" a whole new meaning.


And then there are the deep cuts in Medicaid. In their package of $50 billion in cuts over five years, the House Republicans are proposing $9.4 billion in Medicaid cuts, which would grow to $45 billion over the next 10 years. Millions of children -- especially those in lowincome working families --could be charged higher copayments and premiums. Studies show such increases in outof-pocket costs have their greatest impact on Americans toward the bottom of the income scale who go without the health care they need.

It's worth listening to 44 members of Congress who wrote a letter last April calling on their leaders to eliminate the Medicaid cuts and instead create a bipartisan commission to study the future of Medicaid:

"Medicaid is the largest health care program in the country, serving over 50 million people including more than one in four children. ... As lawmakers, we know that any changes made to this program will have consequences for these individuals. We also know that health care is expensive and that our federal health care programs should get value for the money we spend, improve the health of people who depend upon them, and be accountable for results. We therefore believe that policy should drive the budget and not the budget drive policy."

These members of Congress are not knee-jerk liberals. Every one of the 44 is a House Republican. They were led by Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico, and their ranks include such GOP stalwarts as Tom Davis and Frank Wolf of Virginia, Chris Smith of New Jersey, Phil English and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. They can't in conscience now vote for this budget, can they?

Ah, but don't we have to make "hard choices" to cut the deficit? These cuts may be hard on the poor, but they are not "hard choices" for most House Republicans who are carefully sparing their own constituencies and interest groups. A hard choice for them would be to cut tax pork, that dizzying list of "tax incentives" they have showered on oil companies and investors, and to halt the repeal of the inheritance tax on large fortunes. But, no, foster families and hungry kids have to face cuts so we can afford to eliminate taxes altogether on rich sons and daughters inheriting money from the old man or the old lady. There's a work incentive for you.

I'm sorry to wax so angry, but I'm aghast that some serious people are giving congressional conservatives credit for "finally facing up to the deficit." If House leaders were serious about the deficit, they would admit that you can't finance a war with tax cuts. If the administration believes so deeply in our endeavor in Iraq, it should have the courage to ask Americans to pay for it through a temporary war tax. If we need a big increase in military and homeland security spending to fight terrorism, why not acknowledge that the tax cuts the administration has pushed into law no longer make sense? If we want to help hurricane victims, why ask poor Americans to take on most of the task of financing our collective generosity?

By all means, let's get serious about the deficit. But what's going on in the House is not serious. It's merely an outrage.

E.J. Dionne's e-mail address is .

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