Budget deal hurts human needs

Last week in our post “Federal Budget Battle Appears to be over” we reported that “Speaker Pelosi is acceding to Bush’s budget numbers, cutting $22 billion from the congressional budget proposal.”

Matt Lewis blogging in OMB Watch expressed a concern that the port-mortem on the budget may be premature. He states this “particularly because the Coalition on Human Needs just put out a good summary of how the Bush cuts would impact people, and since they’re asking for advocates to call Congress in support of human needs programs.” Matt makes a compelling case for the impact but he also notes the weakness of the arguments against the budget cuts. He closes with an admonition. “Next year might be even worse. The opposition, unfortunately, has probably been emboldened by their wins, and the good(er) guys are getting burned by looking “weak” in the press.”

This is even more reason why we need to work year round on these policy issues. Being in Washington on July 16th is important but only if we have worked year round.

The following is Matt’s blog post on this subject.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Premature Post-Mortem On The Budget

Perhaps it’s too soon to write a post-mortem on the budget debate. Particularly because the Coalition on Human Needs just put out a good summary of how the Bush cuts would impact people, and since they’re asking for advocates to call Congress in support of human needs programs.

But here’s one anyway. The best message was the “Republicans don’t want to to spend money on program X, but they’ll spend obscene amounts on Iraq.” It probably did a lot of damage. It clarified the hypocrisy and misplaced priorities of their stance and smeared it with the taint of one of the least popular decisions they’ve made.

But I never heard, or came up with, a good message in favor of the Democrats’ budget proposals. Basically we’d trot out some program they knew everybody liked and say “look, support our entire budget because we want to fund popular program X.” I think that message was a lot less compelling, judging by the lack of a strong base of support for the Democratic proposals.

Basically, nobody’s going to the mat over these budget proposals. Not the appropriations committees, not the leadership. I just don’t think anybody’s really holding their feet to the fire.

So one immediate thing to take away might be that a compelling critical message is insufficient, given that the hard right still wields considerable power over legislation and will most likely never be deterred willingly. Then again, solid messages on both fronts may not be enough. Next year might be even worse. The opposition, unfortunately, has probably been emboldened by their wins, and the good(er) guys are getting burned by looking “weak” in the press.