GOP Targets Safety Net Programs, Financial Regulations To Avoid Defense Cuts

Committees in the House are busily marking up legislation to avoid the scheduled cuts that lawmakers approved as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act. Those automatic reductions to domestic and defense spending — agreed to by both parties during the effort to raise the nation’s borrowing limit — will go into effect on January 2, 2013 unless Congress can agree on a proposal to lower the national deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

Since the demise of the super committee tasked with identifying the savings, the GOP has relied on the House-passed Budget Resolution to initiate a budget reconciliation process that would eliminate or disperse the $600 billion of proposed reductions to military spending to other federal agencies. Now, in a memo from the Republican leadership to its members, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), spell out how they plan to generate “savings” in mandatory programs that “would first be used to offset the cost (approximately $78 billion) of replacing the automatic across-the-board discretionary spending cuts” and “further reduce the deficit.”

As it turns out, Republicans’ plan to protect the ballooning defense budget will come at a significant cost to lower-income Americans, women, and children, as well as the nation’s financial security. ThinkProgress has compiled a table of just some of the consequences of the GOP’s cuts:

CUTCONSEQUENCE$11.9 billion from the Prevention & Public Health Fund: Would eliminate a special fund designed to help communities fight chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.Chronic conditions are “responsible for 7 of 10 deaths among Americans each year and account for 75 percent of the nation’s health spending.” Investing in prevention will help reduce national health spending on costly acute care.$600 million by reducing Medicaid enrollment: Would repeal the Medicaid Maintenance of Effort (MOE) provision, which requires states to maintain their existing enrollment eligibility in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or risk losing federal funding.The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that allowing states to kick people off the Medicaid rolls before the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented would cause 400,000 people to lose their Medicaid and CHIP coverage. Two thirds of those dropped from coverage would be children. By 2016, the number of those expected to lose CHIP coverage will climb to 1.7 million people, with 700,000 left uninsured.$43.9 billion from recapturing exchange subsidies: Families or individuals who are receiving affordability credits through the health care exchanges would have to pay back the government if their incomes fluctuate throughout the year.The change could dissuade people from purchasing insurance, disproportionately impact women (who are more likely to experience income fluctuations), and could even increase costs for the entire population.$33 billion by cutting food stamps: Via a handful of changes, the GOP would cut about $33 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), i.e. food stamps. The cuts would knock two million people off of food stamps entirely, while reducing benefits for 44 million others. In September, every beneficiary of food stamps would see their benefits cut by $57.$11.7 billion by restricting “categorical eligibility” in the food stamp program: States would be prevented from automatically enrolling families in food stamps if they qualify for other assistance programs.The bill would knock about 1.8 million low-income people per year off of food aid and end automatic enrollment in free school meals for 280,000 children.$22 billion by repealing the resolution authority: The authority for the government to dismantle failing financial firms, which was included in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, would be eliminated.Without this power, the government would have to resort to the ad hoc bailouts of 2008, as it would be have no process to unwind a failed mega-bank. The savings here are also fabricated, based on a bizarre Congressional Budget Office score that has little basis in reality.$2.8 billion by eliminating foreclosure prevention: The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), one of the Obama administration’s key foreclosure prevention programs, would be terminated.HAMP has been underwhelming due to design flaws and bank intransigence, but the New York Federal Reserve estimates that 3.6 million foreclosures will occur in the next two years, while billions of dollars are still available for HAMP to actually make a difference.$5.4 billion by cutting the budget of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: In addition to ending the CFPB’s independent stream of funding, the bill would cut the Bureau’s budget by more than half.The CFPB can craft regulations for any financial product, and is already working on new rules aimed at reining in credit card, mortgage, and student loan abuses.