As of March 1, arbitrary across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, have gone into effect for our Defense Department and many other government agencies. These cuts treat our highest priorities the same as our lowest priorities, and the impact on Rhode Island is unacceptable.
The best solution to all of our economic challenges, including the debt, is to pair long-term, balanced spending reductions with investments in priorities that create jobs to strengthen the middle class. Unfortunately, sequestration’s impact on early education could cost more than 60 jobs in our state with hundreds fewer children served. Reducing workforce investment funding would mean more than 1,000 fewer Rhode Islanders getting job training. Many of our defense contractors will be negatively affected, support for emergency responders and disaster relief will be put at risk, and nutrition assistance for seniors will face cutbacks.
We have time to avert the worst consequences, but we need a vote on a balanced plan that removes sequestration by combining new revenues with targeted spending cuts.
The current policy came about during the 2011 debt ceiling crisis as the only way for enough House Republicans to vote to prevent our country from defaulting on its obligations. I supported that vote knowing the alternative was significantly worse and that Democrats and Republicans must ultimately compromise on a budget deal to avoid this poison pill. Since it was acknowledged by leaders across the political spectrum that sequestration would need to be replaced, the threat of it was supposed to ensure both parties would make concessions on a long-term deficit reduction plan.
Unfortunately, Republican leadership continues to follow an ideology that says key investments in areas like education, research and even national defense are worth abandoning to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest few and big corporations.
Democrats have put forward a balanced solution that continues to cut spending on top of the $1.4 trillion already enacted in the past two years, while generating revenue from enacting a minimum tax on millionaires, ending tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas, and closing tax subsidies for oil and gas companies making record profits. This allows us to avoid cuts that most harm the middle class and our economy.
I continue to implore my Republican colleagues to end their hard line approach that, more than anything else, values protecting tax breaks for those who don’t need them. We need a vote to put this crisis behind us and move our country forward.
I invite readers to share your thoughts with me by calling my office at 732-9400, or e-mailing me through my website, langevin.house.gov/contact-me/email-me.