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Death by Budget Cut: Why Conservatives and Some Dems Have Blood on Their Hands

There is no room for compromise when dealing with budget cuts that will surely cost innocent lives.

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While the  right-wing media spread the bogus lie  that unions deliberately staged and executed a slowdown to protest budget cuts, the true yet widely ignored culprit was the austerity decision to impose a citywide hiring freeze, resulting in 400 fewer workers to clear the snow-covered roads. Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association,  warned earlier in the year that the city would have trouble responding to a major snowstorm due to a lack of manpower. The commissioner of the Sanitation Department, John Doherty, said just as much when he  acknowledged to the New York Times that “a loss of 400 slots forced him to use 100 workers who were inadequately trained.”

Meanwhile, Arizona was busy denying life-saving treatment to tens of thousands of low-income residents. After being the only state in the entire country to eliminate the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), effectively denying health care to  47,000 low-income children , Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill to  end financing  for certain organ transplants covered under Medicaid. Marc Lacey in the New York Times described the decision as amounting to “a death sentence for some low-income patients, who had little chance of survival without transplants and lacked the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to pay for them.” Two patients taken off the organ transplant waiting list  died as a result of the shameful measure, leading many to accuse Governor Brewer of implementing death panels through budget cuts.

Perhaps cities and states are imitating federal legislatures in slashing life-saving programs. The  E. coli outbreak in Europe , which the AP reports has “claimed at least 33 lives and has left some 3,000 people ill across 14 countries” brings new meaning to the House Appropriations Committee's spending cuts to the nation's food-safety budget. They recently proposed  cutting $35 million  from the Food Safety Inspection Service, responsible for maintaining the safety of meat, poultry and eggs.

With the nation facing an increase in climate change-induced natural disasters, from tornadoes and floods to droughts and wildfires, disaster relief is more important than ever. Unfortunately, the House Appropriations Committee has made it clear they disagree, as evidenced by the recent House Homeland Security appropriations bill that included cuts to disaster aid and firefighter funding. Some members of the Committee  expressed concern  that “the House of Representatives “shortchanged” the federal disaster relief fund by as much as $3 billion, and are attempting to pay for past disasters with funding intended for current and future efforts.” The Hill’s Erik Wasson writes, “With the cuts, FEMA state and local programs would be  reduced by 55 percent compared to levels for fiscal 2011, and by 70 percent compared to fiscal 2010.”

This is why there is no room for compromise when dealing with budget cuts that will surely cost innocent lives, especially when there are ways to fill budget gaps that deficit hawks in congress consistently refuse to pursue — like ending the wars that are costing upwards of  $1 trillion  a year or slightly increasing taxes on millionaires and billionaires after a decade of tax cuts that have cost  $2.6 trillion  or closing tax-loopholes which allow  two-thirds of US corporations to avoid paying federal income taxes  costing $100 billion a year, or $1 trillion a decade . Instead, they are forcing cities and states to cut their most basic services to stay out of the red.  

The fact that these catastrophic budget cuts are most heavily promoted by a conservative party that so vehemently claims to value life above all else, should be an eye-opening lesson about the rationality and mental health of those who so easily submit to the hypocrisy-laden contradictions of such a blatantly inconsistent belief system. But Democrats in office have embraced the same conservative economic ideology that promotes tax and spending cuts as the road to prosperity.