Women, children and the poor will bear the brunt of last night’s ill-conceived Congressional budget decision, while the mostly-male mavens of Wall Street and the military will do just fine. Slashing Pell Grants, Planned Parenthood, Americorps. funds for healthcare reform, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Chesapeake Bay and the D.C. Budget are cheap and easy targets. Leaving the regulatory agency designed to clean-up Wall Street under-funded is just under-handed. The cuts will do relatively little to fix the serious long-term economic problems this nation faces, but will add to our national misery by abandoning education, the environment and people who already just barely get by.
Taking $845 away from each student with a Pell Grant might cause students to drop out, but will hardly repair the federal deficit, and could, in fact, simply have the ironic effect of increasing unemployment and reducing tax revenues as citizens who cannot stay in college get lower-paying jobs or no jobs at all. All studies show that earning college degrees nets almost double the lifetime earnings of a high school diploma, which also means more tax revenues. Tea Partiers need to learn some math.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick and tired of hearing members of Congress say that this is what “the American People” want — I’m an American, too, and I am appalled by the injustice and mean-spirited intentions of the federal budget resolution that the U.S. House of Representatives passed this morning. Millions of Americans, mostly our most vulnerable citizens, will be left even more impoverished and marginalized by this budget action. The Tea Partiers do not speak for the millions of low income college students who will have their student aid reduced, or the millions of people living in poverty who receive support and assistance from Americorps volunteers.
Reducing funding for education, healthcare and the environment reveals the real ideology of the member of Congress who claim to be acting on behalf of “the American People.” In fact, this ideology reveals an alarming rejection of the real American values of helping our neighbors in need, exalting education, and making the wealth of this nation work in favor of building a strong, inclusive society where all citizens can flourish.
Reducing Pell Grants and slashing SEOG and LEAP funding for college students is one of the more pernicious acts of this Congress. With female students as the majority of college students today, and the rising number of Black and Hispanic women from low income backgrounds surging in college nationwide, the reduction in Pell Grants is truly a women’s issue and a matter of civil rights. A nation that wrings its hands over losing top ranking for college achievement rates internationally should be increasing support for low income college students, not taking funding away.
Discretionary federal spending like Pell Grants and the other programs slashed by the House last night is a very small part of the overall federal budget. The injustice is huge, exposing the real ideology of the Congressional majority, which is the promotion of narrow self-interest over broad societal needs. The disparate impact on citizens by race, ethnicity, gender and social class is very clear.
Fortunately, last night’s vote is unlikely to be the final result. Whether the White House and Senate can negotiate a better solution remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: women, children and the poor should not be forced to bear the brunt of remediating the failed economic policies, profligate abuses of the financial industry that caused the recession, and the military spending that is a result of wars started by a prior administration.
Follow this blog for more on the Pell Grant situation in days to come.
See Bob Herbert, “The Human Cost of Budget Cuts” in the February 19 New York Times.