The Congressional Republican leadership continues to support a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA), a measure that would force such drastic cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, that it makes the Ryan Fiscal Year 2012 Budget which was passed by the House and failed in the Senate, benign in comparison. As the U. S. Treasury Department's August 2nd deadline for raising the federal debt limit approaches and talks between Congress and the White House have intensified, the BBA has been able to fly under the radar and escape mainstream scrutiny, although it threatens health and safety net programs to a degree that is beyond any other current proposal to address the nation's debt. Regardless of the deal that is reached, the details will surely have a major impact on people living with HIV, as health care reform, Medicare, and Medicaid are all on the negotiating table.
Put simply, a BBA would require a balancing of the federal budget at the end of every fiscal year, regardless of the state of the economy. Among the most ominous risks associated with this type of economic policy is that policymakers would be forced to make sharp cuts in spending while economies were weak or already in recession, making the possibilities of extending and deepening a recession very real and very serious. By requiring supermajority votes of two-thirds in both the House and the Senate in order to raise any taxes, the House Judiciary Committee's proposed Balanced Budget Amendment all but ensures that all deficit reduction will occur through spending cuts.
The BBA would limit federal spending in any year to 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For reference, federal spending was 24.1% of GDP in 2010. The rejected Ryan Budget, which has been described as draconian, called for spending to be cut to between 20 percent and 21 percent of GDP over the next 10 years making the Ryan Budget unconstitutional under the proposed BBA. In fact, the Ryan Budget would not drop federal spending to 18 percent of GDP until after 2040, according to the Congressional Budget Office, while the BBA would slash spending to 18 percent of GDP by 2017. This truly is a case of the bad and the ugly.
Given that the important fiscal policy decisions made by Congress and the Administration over the next several weeks will have a huge impact on federal spending and on Medicaid and Medicare for the coming year and many years thereafter, AIDS United has adopted a policy position on the fiscal issues.
"AIDS United recognizes that the size of the total federal deficit and the long-term debt owed by the United States together constitute a major problem that must be addressed. AIDS United also recognizes that discretionary spending cuts will be a part of a final deficit reduction package. AIDS United strongly rejects the concept that spending cuts should be the only component of a final deficit reduction package. Therefore, AIDS United supports a balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes revenue growth and does not disproportionately cut funding for health and social safety net programs, and does not drastically alter Medicaid and Medicare. AIDS United will oppose vigorously any proposal that attempts to solve the deficit and debt crisis at the expense of people living with HIV/AIDS, low-income people, and other populations that already experience unjust health, social, and economic disparities."
AIDS United is vehemently opposed to Congress implementing a balanced budget amendment. The current fiscal environment does not lend itself to such a proposal. We need to work to lessen the fiscal debt, but we need the federal government to have the fiscal flexibility to invest in a fragile economy, help a state after a natural disaster, and keep the social safety net available for the economically distressed in our country.
As of today, the House has set a vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment H. J. Res. 1 for the week of July 25th. We urge you to contact your Representative to vote no on this Constitutional Amendment. AIDS United will work to keep you informed of the fiscal policy debates in Washington, DC and provide you with Action Alerts and other tools to engage you in the process Congress and the President need to hear from all of us that the fiscal policy decisions matter to us and that we will not be silent or complacent.
Please take 5 minutes to call your Senators and Representative to tell them you won't accept a "Balanced Budget Amendment" or any other deficit reduction plans that make harmful cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and other essential programs for HIV positive people and low-income people. Insist on a TRULY balanced approach to reducing the deficit that includes fair increases in revenues.