For Immediate Release: February 14, 2011

Balancing the Budget Requires Honest, Balanced Discourse

‘Families can't prosper if policymakers choose to indiscriminately cut spending in programs that help families thrive'

Following is a statement by Alan W. Houseman, executive director of CLASP, the Center for Law and Social Policy, regarding today's release of President Obama's FY 2012 budget. The proposal comes on the heels of a House proposal to slash domestic, non-defense discretionary spending by $100 billion for the remainder of the current fiscal year.

"Policymakers across the political spectrum have said the budget shouldn't be balanced on the backs of the vulnerable. Yet much of public debate on the federal budget and deficit reduction has focused on reigning in domestic, discretionary spending, including significant cuts in programs that aid vulnerable children and families. It's deeply disturbing that this is the direction of the conversation, especially since it's been just two short months since lawmakers voted to extend tax cuts for the wealthy.

"The focus on domestic, non-defense discretionary programs is simply disingenuous and misleading. Such programs account for about 12.5 percent of the federal budget. The budget cannot be balanced solely by cutting these programs, nor should it be. Policymakers should admit as much if they are serious about having an informed national debate on the tough choices we face. They must not only look at spending but also revenue. And they should honor their statements to ensure we don't balance the budget on the backs of the vulnerable.

"While the president's proposed budget for 2012 does a better job at setting appropriate priorities and protecting vulnerable children and families than the House proposal for FY 2011, it too proposes cutting critical low-income programs and essential financial assistance for access to higher education.

"The harsh reality is that Main Street continues to struggle while Wall Street prospers. The stock market is rallying, corporate profits are up, and economists have said the recent recession ended 20 months ago. But this hasn't translated into plush times or even improved economic wellbeing for the masses. Millions of poor, low- and middle-income families continue to experience hardship. Unemployment has remained 9 percent or higher for nearly two years. And one in four children and more than 43 million people overall live in poverty, which is at its highest level since 1994.

"Tackling this decline in Main Street's economic wellbeing requires leadership and the political will to make hard choices, as policymakers have said. These choices must be driven by the nation's shared, core values, including ensuring this nation remains a place where all hard working people can aspire to the middle class and access opportunity.

"In the short-term, families can't prosper if policymakers chose to indiscriminately cut spending on programs that help families thrive. And families can't prosper if they can't put food on the table or a roof over their heads. They can't prosper if they don't have jobs and job training, access to high quality care for their children, opportunities to graduate and participate in higher education, and other supports that in the long term improve family economic security.

"When it comes to making sure the nation's families continue to have the resources they need to make it through tough economic times and thrive, it shouldn't be a ‘tough choice.'"  

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