Super Committee Starts Hearings This Week

September 13, 2011
by Jos G. Linn, RESULTS Domestic Outreach Organizer

The new deficit-reduction Super Committee in Congress begins its work this will with hearings on the causes and history of our national debt. Charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in savings before Thanksgiving, its work-pace will be fast and furious. Following up from our profiles of the new “Super Committee” members, RESULTS and our allies are urging all members of Congress and Super Committee members to support a balanced and fair approach to deficit reduction that protects low-income Americans and does not increase poverty. RESULTS and our allies have crafted a set of principles we urge members of the Super Committee to abide by in any deficit reduction deal.

But first, let’s be clear. RESULTS agrees that our long-term deficit and debt are problems needing solutions. However, we have serious concern that the fervor to get it done now, instead of focusing on rebuilding our economy, could disproportionately target low-income Americans. What we need to do is make sure Congress doesn’t force low-income individuals and families to bear the brunt of those cuts. Here are the principles we want to Super Committee to follow:

  1. Any deficit reduction plan must protect low-income Americans and not increase poverty. We are pleased that the Budget Control Act protects mandatory programs that serve low-income Americans, such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP,” or food stamps), and the Earned Income Tax Credit from across-the-board cuts (which would be triggered if the Super Committee fails). Unfortunately, no such exemption exists for the Super Committee itself, which means they can cut whatever they want. Congress has a long tradition making sure deficit reduction does not increase poverty by protecting low-income programs from automatic budget cuts. We urge the Super Committee to continue this tradition by protecting these programs in their negotiations. We also urge them to reject structural changes to Medicaid and SNAP, such as block grants, which will hurt millions of vulnerable Americans.
  2. Any deficit reduction agreement must include revenue as part of the solution. The Budget Control Act included no new revenue, despite strong support by most Americans for a balanced approach. The basically lets America’s wealthy off the hook in deficit reduction because the programs that get cut are the ones that middle class and low-income Americans rely on. The Super Committee must not make the same mistake. Any plan they devise must raise revenue equal to or greater than any spending cuts. Not only is this fair, it will also help mitigate a problem that is much bigger than the deficits and debt — the widening gap between the rich and everyone else. Did you know that because of the Bush tax cuts and other changes to the tax code, we currently spend $1 billion per day on tax benefits that only go to investors and business? We need a tax code that rewards work over wealth and requires those at the top to pay their fair share.
  3. Use job creation and rebuilding our economy as the guide for any deficit reduction package. One of the great tragedies of this deficit debate is that it has completely overwhelmed our most pressing problem. Jobs, or the lack thereof. We are in the midst of a jobs crisis and we need a laser-like focus on creating jobs. With President Obama’s jobs speech last week (see below), perhaps that shift in focus will occur. People forget that a big chunk of our current budget deficits is caused by unemployment. When people can’t find work, they pay less in taxes. Economists overwhelmingly agree that our deficits will start to decrease when unemployment decreases. They also say that the best way to create jobs by putting dollars in the hands of working- and middle-class Americans who will spend it, thus creating the demand that American businesses need to grow and create jobs. Cutting spending on education, social services and public safety does not create jobs and will hurt our economic recovery by taking customers away from businesses, while also forcing millions more into poverty. Unlike tax breaks for businesses and millionaires, investments in education, health and opportunity for working families lead to stronger families and new jobs.

TAKE ACTION: In the weeks and months ahead, we will be keeping a close eye on the Super Committee deliberations and will likely urge you to take action on various occasions. And, we have easy online actions you can take to weigh in with your members of Congress to support Medicaid, the tax credits like the EITC for low-income working families. Or, use our updated online call-in alert for messaging to members of Congress about the final debt ceiling bill and using a balanced approach going forward. In addition, read fact sheets about poverty in the districts of Super Committee members from our friends at Half in Ten.

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