A Balancing Act

Recently, a PCG board member said: “Let’s not forget that what happens with the federal budget will have a profound effect on what happens in Illinois.” How right she is!

There’s a lot of talk in Washington these days about balancing the budget and reducing the federal deficit. Many of the solutions being considered at this time pose serious threats to schools, health care, human services and public-safety efforts.

Almost everyone agrees that it’s very important to reduce our federal deficit. But, members of Congress have different ideas about how to accomplish that goal. The basic conflict is between those who have made deficit reduction their top priority, on the one hand, and, on the other, those who believe that bringing additional revenue into the system will help vulnerable people in the short term and stimulate the economy in the long term.

Some Congressional members have proposed two primary strategies for reducing the federal deficit. Their first proposal calls for deep budget cuts in long-standing supports, e.g., Medicaid, SNAP/Food Stamps, Medicare, and Social Security for struggling U.S. families and individuals. The second proposal calls for substantive changes in the funding structure, e.g., spending caps and block grants, of a number of programs as well as the budget process itself, a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These changes may sound innocuous on the surface, but budget experts indicate that these structural changes would, in fact, force further drastic cuts, year after year.

Other members of Congress oppose these drastic measures and believe instead that raising the debt ceiling—something that’s been done many times during economic downturns—will help to move the economy to a stronger place while, at the same time, protect important programmatic supports to low-income, struggling households. Another idea for generating more revenue calls for eliminating long-standing tax cuts for some of the wealthiest U.S. citizens.

PCG is working collaboratively with several Chicago-area advocacy and human service organizations to address these urgent budget issues at the federal level. We have developed three fundamental principles that we believe should guide Congress’ decision-making in their budget negotiations and deficit-reduction proposals. Those fundamentals are:

  • Oppose any new budget procedures and structural changes to programs that would force drastic cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, SNAP/Food Stamps and hundreds of other supports on which struggling U.S. families and individuals depend. These threats include “global” or entitlement spending caps, a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution and block-grant approaches to programs.
  • Support a balanced approach that includes revenues—not a “cuts only” plan. Without some new revenues to provide balance, a cuts-only approach would decimate critical services for Americans in need.
  • Support efforts that protect low-income Americans from harm and avoid increasing poverty.

Our U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk and your U.S. representative need to hear from you today. Critical decisions are being made right now.

You can communicate your concern by sending e-mails to your senators and representative. We have provided an editable message for your use.

Or, you may prefer to call their offices and share your concern with their staffs.

  • Call 202-224-2152 to contact IL Sen. Durbin.
  • Call 202-224-2854 to contact IL Sen. Kirk.
  • Contact the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected with your U.S. representative.

Urge your senators and representative to oppose any deficit-reduction plan that fails to reflect the three fundamental principles articulated above. We need a balanced approach during this difficult economic time—one that doesn’t put the onus on low-income, struggling households. Otherwise, we undermine all our efforts to create jobs, stabilize our shaky economy and reduce poverty.

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