The Two Plans: A Washington Debate with Significant Consequences
We are now days away from August 2nd—the deadline set by the U.S. Treasury Department for when the debt ceiling must be raised in order to avoid the U.S. defaulting on our debt. As the hours tick by and the political atmosphere heats up, it is becoming a scramble to navigate a way out of this incredibly volatile economic situation.
Earlier this week negotiations between President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner (OH-R) fell apart, leading the leadership in the House and Senate to introduce their own separate pieces of legislation to both raise the debt ceiling and begin to tackle the country’s every growing deficit. The two issues were linked months ago by the House majority.
Confronting Poverty in Detroit
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
Putting the Spotlight on Medicaid
Medicaid is the principal source of health care and long-term services for more than 50 million children, adults with disabilities, and Older Americans. It is a joint federal/state program that pays for medical assistance and long-term care for low-income and elderly Americans. This program provides vital care to millions of people who otherwise would find their disability or illness a significant economic and personal burden.
This is why the JCPA is incredibly concerned with Congressional proposals, including the House-passed 2012 budget, which would restructure the Medicaid program by capping funds flowing to states and/or by changing the program to a block grant. Either of these moves would result in the denial of care to millions of vulnerable people. Under a block grant or funding cap, states would have no choice but to sharply restrict enrollment, eligibility, and benefits for populations they currently serve. Many populations who currently qualify for Medicaid could end up uninsured, including people who states are currently required to cover such as poor children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.
Making the Moral Investment in Nutrition Programs
Over the years, the JCPA has advocated on behalf of vulnerable populations to expand upon and strengthen nutrition and anti-hunger programs. We believe strongly that those in this country who are unable to provide nutritious meals for themselves and their families deserve to be provided with assistance. As it says in Isaiah 58:10, “If you offer your compassion to the hungry and satisfy the famished creature, then shall your light shine in darkness.” This is why it is with growing concern that we have watched Congress cut anti-hunger and nutrition programs in order to create a more balanced budget.
This past Tuesday, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee passed an FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill that makes billions of dollars in cuts to vital nutrition programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
The Issue of the Debt Ceiling
On May 16th, the U.S. Treasury Department reached the $14.3 trillion limit on the amount the federal government can borrow, known as the debt limit. The debt is the total amount of money the government owes, made up of public debt and debt held by federal accounts (such as social security and Medicare). The debt ceiling is the total amount that the Treasury Department can borrow, which is set by Congress. It can be thought of as similar to the limit on a personal credit card. In a letter to Congress at the beginning of May, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner explained that the Treasury Department would take extraordinary measures to make sure the U.S. government has enough money to extend its borrowing until the beginning of August. By August 2nd Congress must vote to raise the debt ceiling or risk tremendous national and international fall out.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, “Since 1960, Congress has acted 78 separate times to permanently raise, temporarily extend, or revise the definition of the debt limit—49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents.” Despite this fact, a vocal opposition has arisen in Congress, speaking out against raising the debt ceiling. According to a National Priorities Project webinar on the subject, 68% of Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling. But it is commonly believed that many are incorrectly confusing the issue of the federal deficit with the debt ceiling. Even if Congress enacted far reaching deficit reduction matters in the coming weeks, it would do little to get us out of our current debt problem.
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