As Congress slashes the federal budget by $5 trillion, North Carolina stands to lose big

As Congress slashes the federal budget by $5 trillion, North Carolina stands to lose big

- in Progressive Voices, Top Story
Photo: Adobe Stock

Budgets matter, both within government and inside each household across America, because they demonstrate just how much we value our priorities and are willing to contribute to achieving them.

Unfortunately, the 2018 federal budget recently passed by the House GOP, and the budget resolution that the Senate will vote on this week, places a high value on helping the wealthiest while undercutting the economic opportunity that has served to create growth and stabilize communities for generations in our country. By proposing to cut our collective commitment to the public good by $5 trillion over the next 10 years, Congress will hurt generations of Americans in the process – regardless of party or community—in order to pave the way for a tax plan that would benefit the wealthiest and their special interests.

A $5 trillion cut is roughly equivalent to the country’s investment over four years in Medicare, Medicaid, Health Insurance Subsidies, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program—combined. To achieve that level of reductions in public services over the next ten years, Americans will lose affordable health care and housing, assistance in putting food on the table and support in providing their children with early education. Americans will also see reductions in funding for higher education and medical research that could cure diseases.

North Carolinians will not be protected from any of the cuts Congress is proposing, as the proposed budget:

  • Eliminates housing assistance for more than 1 million U.S. families due to a $37 billion cut to affordable housing and the Section 8 rental assistance program. This cut would hurt North Carolina, as rental assistance in our state already falls far short of need: There are more than 322,000 households in our state that pay more than half of their income for housing and do not receive any assistance due to limited funding.
  • Eliminates heating assistance (LIHEAP) for nearly 700,000 U.S. seniors on fixed incomes, people with disabilities and families with children by cutting this program by more than $4 billion. This cut would hurt North Carolina as LIHEAP serves over 191,000 households in our state.
  • Eliminates nutrition assistance for 1.25 million U.S. women, infants and children through a $6.5 billion cut to the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) over the next decade. This cut would hurt North Carolina as WIC serves over 240,000 people in our state each month.
  • Slashes Pell Grant funding by more than $100 billion – a 33 percent cut, making college less affordable for more than eight million working-class students. This cut would hurt North Carolina’s college students as nearly two-thirds of our state’s college graduates accumulate student loan debt every year.

And these are just a few examples. The irony is that even if someone is lucky enough to not feel the brunt of these federal cuts, all North Carolinians are ultimately affected. That is because these cuts go against the effort we make to reduce poverty and thus hold back the economy from its full potential.

It is important to also understand that our policymakers are not serious about being fiscally responsible as they intend to pass along to future generations the cost of these failed ideas by increasing the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next ten years—simply to provide the vast majority of proposed tax cuts to the wealthy. This approach will be steep for everyone else in the form of increased tax loads or reduced services in the coming years.

Our desire to prosper as one nation requires us to act now as North Carolinians and speak up against the drastic budget cuts that will hurt our country and future generations. As the Senate prepares to vote this week on its budget resolution, it needs to hear that we deserve a budget that puts the prosperity of all Americans first— not the financial interests of a select few.

Luis Toledo is a policy analyst at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center.