The Kool-Aid drinkers at Sojourners are trying to rally the troops to oppose “cuts” in the budget the Obama administration, putting up the following “take action” alert:
Congress is considering a budget plan that would make a 9 percent cut in discretionary spending while giving a 2 percent increase for military spending. This would be devastating for domestic programs that provide basic nutrition, health, and opportunity to poor children and international aid programs that save lives every day.
As a country, we face difficult financial choices, but one thing that should not be on the table is to abandon the poor and vulnerable while allowing more military spending.
Tell Congress to get its budget priorities in order.
I’m not sure whether this is deliberately dishonest or extraordinarily ignorant. Beyond a shadow of a doubt it is inaccurate. The budget that the White House has sent to Congress “cuts” discretionary spending after starting at a baseline that is much higher than it was just three years ago. In 2008, total non-defense discretionary spending was $487.4 billion. In 2010 it was $704.3 billion. So even if that 9% figure were correct, it would still leave spending in this sector of the federal budget at $634.9 billion, which hardly sounds like a proposal to “abandon” anyone.
What’s more, here’s what the Federal Times analysis of the proposal reveals as far as increases or decreases by agency:
Agriculture: $145.6 billion (increase of $14.6 billion)
Commerce: $13.7 billion (decrease of $3.3 billion)
Education: $77.4 billion (increase of $13.1 billion)
Energy: $27.2 billion (increase of $4.2 billion)
Environmental Protection: $8.8 billion (decrease from $10.2 billion)
Health and Human Services: $886.8 billion (decrease from $889.6 billion)(note: HHS discretionary spending would drop 3%, from $84.4 billion to $82.2 billion)
Housing and Urban Development: $47.2 billion (increase of $2.1 billion)
Labor: $12.8 billion (decrease of $700 million)
Transportation: $128.6 billion (increase of $44.3 billion)
Veterans Affairs: $58.8 billion (increase of $5.7 billion)
I didn’t include some that have nothing to do with Sojourners‘ concerns like Treasury and NASA. If you can get a 9% decrease out of that, you’ve got me beat. I get total increases of $84 billion, and total decreases of $7.6 billion, using the discretionary figure from HHS.
In its form letter to Congress, action takers are encouraged to say something like this:
As your constituent, I ask you to oppose any budget proposal that increases military spending while cutting domestic and international programs that benefit the poor, especially children.
Programs we need to invest in during these tough economic times include:
1. Critical child health and family nutrition programs
2. Proven work and income supports that lift families out of poverty
3. Support for education, especially in low-income communities
4. International aid that directly and literally save lives
All of those programs have seen drastic increases since 2008, and education is gets a $13 billion increase in Obama’s budget. So what exactly are they whining about?
Jim Wallis is fond of saying that the government budgets are moral documents. The moral of this document, and the changes that Sojourners apparently wants to send, is this: Spend like there’s no tomorrow, and let the grandchildren pick up the check.