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Darling CF's, Today, I bring you your regularly scheduled crunk policy analysis.
I am a bit of a policy nerd, admittedly. Not because I enjoy inaccessible wonkery, but because I think it informs my activism to know as much as I can about the intricacies of policy proposals and political agendas.
That said, I must confess that I find budgets to be completely tedious and almost incomprehensible pieces of policy. BUT, they are arguably the most important pieces of policy there are. Nothing happens unless it is funded: almost no policy can implemented without a funding stream, without a designation of where the money will come from. Public programs, the military, the post office – all exist only so long as we fund them. In the USA, if we believe in something we have to put our money where our mouth is, and in the case of public programs like food access for the poor, it's rather literal.
So, the current goings on in Washington are not a specific-issue based fight. This is not about how much money goes for a particular program, or not. Though, it may seem so at first glance. It is a fight over the very structure and function of our government.
Last night, mere hours from a government shutdown meetings between President Obama, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) were still ongoing. The government budget is the major point of contention. The Republican leadership reportedly wants anywhere from 40-33 billion dollars in spending cuts to domestic programs, and the Administration and Democratic leadership are trying to keep the country running without having to concede such drastic cuts.
Soon, this issue will be resolved. The government won't shut down for long, if it shuts down at all. What's more important here are the pivot points in this debate.
What do conservative consider to be "wasteful spending?" Republican Senator Paul Ryan's budget would slash the safety net programs for people living in poverty and those fast-approaching poverty. Programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Yep, this would save money, in a manner of speaking, and likely only in the short term. It would increase the burden on the most vulnerable among us – those of us that are low income, women, people of color, people with disabilities, people who need health care… the list goes on, and these identities intersect.
But you know what would REALLY save some big bucks? Eliminating or reducing funding for one or two of the wars we're in. Or perhaps cutting the federally funded health care that's afforded to all Congresspeople. Or maybe ending some (or all) of the tax subsidies we give to corporations. Those things would save some money, for real. Or we could just tax the rich. This attempt at targeting safety net services, isn't about saving money, it's about cementing the socio-economic strata in our society. The rich will get richer and the poor won't have a chance in hell. Never mind your bootstraps, this is the final blow from which the American Dream (mythical as it is) will never recover.
Without consistent support from the government in the form of public programs, the middle class can't grow. People fall into poverty and have no recourse for getting out of it without robust health care, education and community engagement programs. I realize this might sound a little alarmist, but if we carry the conservative ideal of limited government to it's logical conclusion, specifically if the limits are placed on public and social programs, then this is the path we're on.
Our challenge is to redefine this debate to be about human flourishing, not about the government's role as an abstract entity. Because I believe that the right to be free from poverty is a right that we have to fight for. And to put our money where our mouth is.