Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rep Towns Statement on Proposed Budget Cuts

My Republican colleague, Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee released recommendations for budget cuts last week that would trim $32 billion from the remaining 2011 fiscal budget.  My first problem is that the Republican majority in the House recently passed a resolution giving Rep. Ryan sole authority to set budget limits for the entire country—a power that’s never before been given to an individual.  I am also dismayed that many of the proposed cuts will negatively impact many people who are struggling in my District and others throughout the nation.
I understand the urgent need to reduce the federal deficit.  We will be paying around $200 billion in interest payments on the debt this year and if budget deficits continue to grow at current rates, the Congressional Budget Office projects we will be paying $778 billion in the year 2020 or 3.4 percent of our Gross Domestic Product.  This, of course, would be a dangerous drag on the economy and unsustainable over the long haul.

President Barack Obama is proposing an austere budget, freezing spending levels on discretionary funding over the next five years that will lower spending as a percent of GDP to levels last seen in the Eisenhower Administration.  His proposed budget cuts community service block grants in half to $350 million and reduces Community Development Block Grants by a quarter or $125 million.  These are resources many struggling communities depend on to provide critical services.

Yet, the Republican budget plan calls for even deeper cuts that would cripple government agencies’ ability to meet the basic needs of many Americans.  Many Brooklyn residents are already struggling in this depressed economy.  But here we go again trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and less fortunate when we know that we can never cut our way to fiscal balance.  While it is necessary to be diligent with spending, we must also generate sufficient revenues.

We have fought two wars for a decade while cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans and that has created the fiscal mess we are in.  In the past, the wealthiest Americans reached deeper into their pockets to pay for the nation’s security because they have the most to gain as well as lose.  At a time when we need more investment in human capital in order to compete globally—as President Obama stated so eloquently in his recent State of the Union address—we should not be cutting resources that are needed to educate and support a healthy support a healthy and strong citizenry.