Senior Advisor for Federal Fiscal Policy
The new proposal of the House Republican Study Committee (RSC) to cut and then freeze non-defense discretionary spending at 2006 levels from 2012 through 2021 would mean cuts of more than 40 percent in education, environmental protection, law enforcement, medical research, food safety, and many other key services.
The RSC’s plan builds on an earlier proposal from House Speaker John Boehner to cut “non-security” discretionary spending by $100 billion in fiscal 2011, which would mean a 21 percent cut in discretionary programs other than defense, homeland security, military construction, and veterans’ benefits, compared to the 2010 level adjusted for inflation.
Boehner’s proposal would represent the deepest annual cut in funding for these programs in recent U.S. history. It would remove substantial purchasing power from a weak economy, thereby costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and raising risks of a double-dip recession.
But, the RSC’s longer term plan, which the 165-member House GOP group unveiled yesterday, would go much, much further. By 2021, it would reduce non-defense appropriations by 42 percent below what the Congressional Budget Office says is needed to maintain last year’s funding level, adjusted only for inflation.
If imposed across the board, such a cut would mean 42 percent less for health care for veterans; 42 percent less for K-12 education; 42 percent less for protecting the environment; 42 percent less for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and border security; 42 percent less for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 42 percent less for food safety and inspection; and so on.
The House majority, of course, could decide to meet its overall target for non-defense discretionary spending while protecting one or more of the programs and services listed above. But, a cut of less than 42 percent in, say, education or environmental protection would necessitate even more draconian cuts in, say, food safety and border security.
In essence, the RSC proposal would eviscerate the vital services and benefits that the federal government provides and that improve the living standards and quality of life for millions of Americans from New York to California, Maine to Texas.
During the recent election, many voters supported calls for less government spending. But they were told that policymakers could reach this goal largely by eliminating earmarks and obvious “waste, fraud, and abuse.” I doubt many Americans thought lawmakers would interpret the election as a mandate to cut a vast array of crucial programs by nearly half. I also doubt they would be happy with such an outcome.