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Rep. John Lewis Says Republican Cuts to Social Safety Net Are Heartless, Not Fiscally Sound

April 18, 2012
Press Release


WASHINGTON-- Today the leadership of the House continues its attempts to destroy the safety net that protects millions of Americans from falling into grinding poverty, while it defends exorbitant tax breaks for the rich.  The Republican leadership of the House has passed proposals that would drastically reduce Meals on Wheels programs for seniors in many states, severely reduce domestic violence protections, emergency shelter, food stamp programs and much more, while poverty and hunger are on the rise in the US. 

         According to Feeding America, Georgia is one of ten states, which reflect rates of food insecurity that are significantly higher than the national average.  And only 10 percent of people who use food supplement programs are homeless; most come from families where at least one adult is working.

         “The voting public needs to look at these actions very carefully, “said Rep. John Lewis.  “The House leadership has offered no proposal--not one--that even begins to address the problems of poverty, hunger, homelessness and unemployment that hit this country after the economic crash. They have cut unemployment money, food programs, support for seniors, students and the working poor.  Who do these members serve, if not the majority of American families?  Where is their compassion for the millions who are struggling to make ends meet?”

         If the House Republican budget were to become law, it would enable earners of over $1 million annually to receive $394,000 in tax breaks every year.  Even though this nation is faced with a mounting deficit, House Republicans have added $265,000 in additional tax cuts for people earning over $1 million annually, on top of the much-contested Bush tax cuts.  Meanwhile, these same Republican proposals would simultaneously raises taxes for individuals and families earning less than $30,000 annually requiring them to pay between an additional $58 to as much as $193 per year in federal taxes. 

         In an untelevised Ways and Means mark-up yesterday, the Republican committee leadership passed proposals that require even more sacrifices from these families to offset mandated defense department cuts.  Rep. Lewis referred to it as an attack on children and families (video).

         Since the supercommittee could not agree on a deficit reduction plan, a series of mandated cuts are slated to go into effect.  The supercommittee’s discussions did require both sides to offer some of their “sacred cows”  in good faith to assure that sacrifice would be balanced and bi-partisan.  Thus cuts to defense and some to social programs were agreed upon.  The supercommittee also agreed, however, to exempt some programs from these automatic cuts including “food stamps” or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit, veterans’ compensation, Social Security and aspects of Medicare among a few others. 

         However, the House Republican approach to budget reconciliation reneges on this promise of bi-partisan sacrifice.  Instead of holding to their original promise to exempt certain necessary programs that keep the social safety net intact, they determined to protect the defense budget from any agreed-upon cuts and offset the loss in federal income by putting exempt programs on the chopping block.  Today Ways and Means Republicans passed tax proposals that allow sports franchises and television production companies to claim a small business tax credit, while it offers no relief for sole proprietorships or small family businesses who are struggling against many obstacles, including a heavy tax burden.

“This is not right.  It is not fair or just.  All Americans should be required to share the burden of taxes equally, according to their ability to pay.  Trickle down economics does not work.  We learned that in the Reagan years, but it has not stopped this Congress from giving away the store to the richest, while kicking the legs out from under the working poor in America. 

“Usually, when we need to reconcile the budget, leadership will move beyond partisan ideology because the good of the entire nation is at stake.  They will call several committees to meet, research bi-partisan alternatives, dialogue across the aisle and come up with bi-partisan solutions.  This House does not see compromise as an option.”

  Ways and Means leaders could have used the Buffet rule to offset defense cuts they wanted to protect.  It would spread sacrifice among more Americans instead of requiring the working poor to shoulder the burden of the federal deficit, particularly when their actions did not lead to the problem.  The damaging cuts to the social safety net House Republicans have passed will raise $52 million.    Using the Buffet rule could have spared $46 million on social safety net cuts, if the Republicans had been willing to even consider it.

“It seems very clear that sound fiscal policy is not the point of these cuts,” said Rep. Lewis “no matter what the other side says.  They want to create a society where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, with no chance that hard work will help them rise out of their circumstances.”