Budget season is now in full swing on Capitol Hill. Hot on the heels of Rep. Price’s House budget resolution, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) released his own budget plan yesterday afternoon. Sen. Enzi’s proposal differs from Rep. Price’s plan in a few respects, such as defense spending, and it is even sketchier on the details—but it is clear that both budgets share an appalling disregard for the needs of low-income Americans—and a commitment to protecting tax breaks for wealthy Americans and corporations. Like the Price budget, the Enzi budget would:
- Make massive cuts to the federal budget, mostly from programs that serve lower-income people, which women and their families disproportionately rely on.
- Cut the funding available for all of the non-defense programs Congress funds each year, including Head Start, child care, K-12 education, job training, and domestic violence prevention as well as food safety, environmental protection, transportation, and medical research. Though Sen. Enzi’s cuts to this area of the budget do not reach the level proposed in the Price plan, his budget would maintain deep sequestration cuts in 2016 and then cut funding for non-defense discretionary programs at least $236 billion below sequestration levels through 2025.
- Slash the funding dedicated to entitlement programs that improve economic security for individuals and families, like SNAP (food stamps), child nutrition programs, Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled poor, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and unemployment insurance. The Enzi plan does not indicate which programs would be cut or by how much, but its cuts to this category are even deeper than those in the Price budget, totaling $660 billion over ten years—a level that cannot be achieved without severe cuts to many of these vital programs.
- Cause tens of millions of people to lose their health insurance by repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—including the tax credits that 5.4 million women currently use to purchase health coverage and the Medicaid eligibility expansion that provides health insurance to millions more—and turning traditional Medicaid into a block grant while cutting its funding by billions of dollars. By repealing the ACA, it also would revoke improved coverage for maternity care and preventive services, including birth control, and allow insurance companies to once again treat being a woman as a pre-existing condition.
- Avoid making the very wealthy and corporations pay their fair share. By repealing the tax changes in the ACA, both the Enzi budget and the Price budget cut taxes for high-income taxpayers on earnings and investment income. Though the Enzi budget is exceedingly vague with regard to other tax reforms, it makes clear that any deficit reduction must come from program cuts rather than new tax revenues—and it changes Senate procedural rules to make it easier to enact tax cuts.
Overall, like the House budget, the Senate plan balances the budget on the backs of women and their families. But it doesn’t have to be this way. President Obama’s FY 2016 budget makes major investments in child care and early education and post-secondary education, ends the sequestration cuts that have undermined critical programs, expands tax credits for low- and moderate-income families, and curbs tax breaks for very wealthy investors, corporations and large financial institutions. And in the House, the “People’s Budget” introduced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus presents a clear alternative to Rep. Price’s proposal. As these plans demonstrate, the federal budget can actually reduce poverty and inequality rather than increasing both. Let’s hope our Members of Congress get their priorities straight.