by Lynda Carson
The Republicans are waging a federal budget-cutting assault on millions of people including veterans, union members, school children, the elderly, blind, disabled and poor people across the nation.
During the week of March 16, Republicans in control of the House of Representatives and the Senate released their disastrous budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2016 and beyond. The Senate Republican budget proposes $5.1 trillion in cuts from the federal budget over a ten-year period. The House Republican budget proposal calls for $5.6 trillion in cuts during the same period.
The House and Senate have to reconcile their differences, but any way you look at the massive federal budget-cutting proposals on the table, if passed into law they will have catastrophic consequences for the American public in the near future.
If approved by the full House and Senate, the massive budget reductions will amount to more than $500 billion in cuts per year to the federal government’s domestic programs during the next ten years, which is totally counter to President Obama’s recent budget proposals that would fund domestic programs in FY 2016.
In a deceptive maneuver, Republicans are trying to conceal from the public the details about which programs they plan to devastate with massive budget cuts. On March 18, the Los Angeles Times reported that Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and one of the most conservative members of Congress, said, “You won’t find specifics in what we’ve done, just limits.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. House Budget Committee passed a massive spending plan that will result in around $613 billion going to the military in 2016, and the failed wars waged by the U.S. government. Additionally, the powerful Rules Committee is expected to amend the current plan with additional funding for the Pentagon before the full House votes on the plan. In total, the Republican plan amounts to $2 billion more than what President Obama proposed.
In essence, right-wing Republicans are totally open about their plans to fund the Pentagon and its failed wars with billions of dollars more in additional funding from the federal government. They are totally open about their plans to give massive tax breaks to the rich and wealthy corporations all across America.
However, they are concealing the details of their massive budget-cutting proposals that would devastate our nation’s domestic programs. Republicans are afraid that there will be great concern if the details of their budget cuts were made public because their proposals will harm the lives of tens of millions of people all across the nation.
What many people across the nation do know is that the Republicans intend to terminate the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care). Republican extremists are also launching budget cuts on such programs as Medicaid, Medicare, the food stamp program, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s subsidized housing programs, including public housing, Section 8 program, and the Project-Based Voucher Program.
The Republicans are also attacking the Social Security Administration, including cuts of SSDI benefits for disabled Americans and people on SSI. The attack also extends to the public school system, teachers, union workers, block grants, and many other important domestic programs that assist cities across the nation, including veterans, children, the poor, the blind, elderly, and disabled.
Assault on Food Stamps
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on Families and Living Arrangements released on Jan. 28, 2015, the number of children receiving food stamps remains higher than it was before the so-called great recession in 2007.
The latest report reveals that the rate of children living with married parents who receive food stamps has doubled since 2007. In 2014, an estimated 16 million children, or about one in five, received food stamp assistance, compared with the roughly 9 million children, or one in eight, that received food stamp assistance before the great recession began.
With poverty levels at an all-time high in the Bay Area, and with one in five children currently receiving food stamp assistance across the nation, the Republicans are planning massive budget cuts to the Food Stamp program in FY 2016, and during the next five years.
None of the right-wing Republicans bothered to ask the hungry children in the Bay Area and all across the nation how they plan to survive once their food stamp assistance has been severely slashed by these massive budget cuts.
HUD subsidizes the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) and the Public Housing Program and federal sequestration budget cuts in recent years have harmed the Section 8 program deeply.
In response to massive budget cuts in recent years, the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) has announced new policy changes for Section 8 voucher holders. Doing the best they can under the worst conditions due to ongoing federal budget cuts, the OHA has still managed to assist thousands of low-income households. Thousands of low-income households would become homeless if the OHA cut back or eliminated housing assistance.
However, during the week of March 16, thousands of Section 8 tenants in the Housing Choice Voucher Program were alarmed to receive two notices of policy changes made by the OHA. The OHA is a Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration housing authority, and MTW housing authorities do not have to abide by the normal federal rules and regulations that 3,300 other Public Housing Authorities have to abide by all across the nation. There are only around 35 MTW housing authorities nationwide. According to HUD’s records, there are around 13,380 Section 8 households in Oakland.
One notice advises Section 8 tenants that, as an MTW housing authority, the OHA has recently made changes to their portability policy because some neighboring housing authorities may not be absorbing new voucher holders into their system that are transferring out of Oakland. The OHA would end up subsidizing Section 8 vouchers being used by Section 8 tenants who transferred from Oakland into cities that would not absorb the vouchers into their system, and the OHA does not want to do that.
As a result, the new policy restricts Oakland’s Section 8 tenants from using their Section 8 vouchers to move to Alameda, Contra Costa County, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Solano County because it may cost more to live in those areas than it does in Oakland. The OHA is not willing to subsidize the Section 8 voucher holders if they decide to move to those locations. The new policy goes into effect on July 1, 2015.
It appears that the OHA did not bother to ask Section 8 voucher holders in Oakland how they feel about losing their freedom to move to nearby cities with their vouchers, before deciding on the draconian policy change.
However, according to documents, the OHA recognizes that some households may need to move out of Oakland due to special circumstances and there are exceptions to the new policy. Section 8 tenants are being directed to contact a staff person in the Leased Housing Department of the OHA to discuss their options.
Also, in a separate notice, Section 8 tenants in Oakland have been advised that a change in the utility allowance policy is going into effect on August 1, 2015, that may result in tenants paying higher rents. The OHA is not limited to establishing a utility allowance schedule in accordance with HUD requirements because it is an MTW demonstration housing authority.
Tenants are being advised that the OHA is giving them a six-month notice before the new utility policy goes into effect that may result in Oakland’s Section 8 tenants paying much higher rents than tenants in other jurisdictions.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) assists around 2.1 million households in the United States with their rents and utilities.
Massive Assault on SSDI
In the Bay Area, thousands of working-class, disabled people with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are threatened with a 20 percent cut to their insurance plan as a direct result of the right-wing attack on Social Security. Additionally, hundreds of millions of people all across the nation have paid into the Social Security program since its inception, and currently only about 11 to 12 million people are being assisted by SSDI who have paid into the system.
In January 2015, Republicans took control of the House and Senate. On day one of taking control of Congress, in a cunning move revealing their hatred of the working class, elderly and disabled, extreme far-right Republicans voted to block a simple financial transfer of Social Security funds from the old-age program to the disability program.
The disability program is projected to reach a shortfall in late 2016 because in earlier years too much money was placed into the old-age program that should have gone into the disability program. As a result, the money needs to be replaced.
These funds are desperately needed to keep the disability program active to serve the needs of the working class who have already paid tens of millions of dollars into the system, but are now disabled for one reason or another. This includes millions of people on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) who will be devastated if the funding transfer fails to occur.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the normal transfer of Social Security funds from one program to another has taken place at least 11 times since 1968, and was such a standard procedure that it was done four times during the Reagan administration. Reagan was a right-wing extremist while in office as president, but compared to the extreme right-wing Republicans now taking control of the House and Senate, Reagan has been left far behind.
Republicans did not ask the 11 million-plus disabled Americans how they plan to survive now that they are threatened with a 20 percent cut to their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) plan, nor were the millions of people on SSI asked how they plan to survive the massive budget cuts they are presently facing.
The funding transfer needs to take place immediately to SSDI before the shortfall sets in during FY 2016, beginning in October 2015.
The war being waged against the American people by right-wing Republicans is happening at a very fast pace and can already be felt by millions of Americans all across the nation. The Republicans are trying to conceal their activities as much as possible before the public has a chance to rise up in anger to stop their draconian plans before they are made into federal law.
Lynda Carson may be reached at email@example.com