Rally to Restore Balance to the Budget Debate

By James Colten 07-26-2012
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) at a May news conference. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, members of the House spoke out against the House Agriculture Committee’s vote to cut SNAP benefits to working class Americans. On Wednesday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) rallied on the Senate-side to restore balance to the budget debate and avoid sequestration in conjunction with a report on the effects of such cuts.

The premise of the current debate is that all the cuts have to come from the non-military, discretionary budget. Harkin reported that since we last had a balanced budget (Clinton-era), discretionary funds have risen 0 percent as opposed to a 73 percent increase in the Pentagon budget.

"If you want to cut out waste and abuse, [the Pentagon] is where you get it," Harkin said.

We have two sets of rules, he said. One set for the rich, and another set for the rest of America. This equals out to tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts for the poor and middle class.

“We shouldn’t have sequestration. Period.”

Harkin and colleagues acknowledged that there has to be a mix of cuts and revenue in order to reduce the deficit. But the deficit cannot be reduced by cutting programs that strengthen our country, such as education and job training (programs that didn’t put us into debt in the first place).

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton during the rally reminded the crowd that nothing is more important to national security than education. Sequestration will cut education. He lamented that “statesmanship” — the art of arguing and finding compromise  — has been lost on D.C. politicians. Members of Congress must be able to compromise in order to avoid sequestration and deadly cuts for America’s working and middle classes.

 James Colten is Campaigns Assistant for Sojourners.

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