Self-Inflicted Wounds: Protecting Families and Our Economy from Bad Budget Choices

The Coalition on Human Needs
March 29, 2012
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A new report released today by the Coalition on Human Needs for the first time examines the impact of the automatic spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 on more than 140 programs that serve low-income and struggling families. Self-Inflicted Wounds: Protecting Families and Our Economy from Bad Budget Choices, finds that the automatic budget cuts will severely damage human needs programs ranging from education to nutrition to job training.

With budget proposals from President Obama and the U.S. House of Representatives now on the table, these findings shed light on the consequences of the automatic cuts, which will go into effect in January 2013 unless Congress chooses another path. The report also concludes that the House leadership budget proposal, introduced last week, would go even further, cutting so deeply into domestic appropriations and restructuring programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps so dramatically, that over several decades most federal services would shrink down to almost nothing.

“This is no time for the country to turn its back on the millions of Americans whose lives were upended by the longest and deepest recession of the last 60 years” said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs. “Instead of relying solely on spending cuts to reduce the deficit, Congress must take a balanced approach that includes new revenues and creates more jobs.”

The report notes that these cuts would come after years of declining funds for programs aimed at vulnerable households and would grow even more severe during the next decade. It finds that under the automatic cuts, even by the most conservative estimates:

  • 75,000 children would not be able to receive Head Start services
  • 25,000 children could not attend safe and educational child care, putting an enormous burden on low-income working parents
  • 17,000 seniors would no longer receive Meals on Wheels or be able to eat at centers
  • 2,300 health research efforts would end prematurely or never begin
  • 670,000 people would not receive job training
  • 1.5 million low-income students in elementary and secondary schools would be harmed by program cuts, and more than 16,000 teachers and other staff would lose their jobs
  • 460,000 special education students would receive fewer or no services and 12,500 special education staff would lose their jobs
  • 1.3 million college students would lose or face reductions in their supplemental education grants
  • 734,000 households would no longer receive help paying for their home heating or air conditioning


For nine particularly critical programs, including K-12 education, Head Start, home energy assistance, and the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, the report also includes data on state by state cuts.

“Trying to solve the budget deficit just by cutting spending is neither necessary nor effective” said Weinstein. “We do have choices. We can spend $25 million on one more Trident II nuclear missile or we can provide nearly 100,000 dislocated workers with job training. We can give one millionaire a $187,000 tax cut or pay for programs that benefit an entire community, including seniors, veterans and college students.” The report recommends that budget decisions should adhere to four principles:

  • Protect low-income people
  • Increase revenues from the very wealthy and corporations
  • Reduce unnecessary military spending
  • Create more jobs

Find this ground-breaking report here.


Reprinted with permission from Coalition on Human Needs.

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