Letter to the House Opposing Speaker Boehner’s Debt Ceiling Plan
July 28, 2011
On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, we strongly urge you to VOTE NO on Speaker Boehner’s debt ceiling plan scheduled for a floor vote this week. This plan rejects the balanced approach needed to address our nation’ fiscal challenges. Instead, the Boehner plan sacrifices children, seniors, and working families while continuing to prop up Wall Street, oil companies, and the wealthiest individuals. Votes associated with this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Program for the 112th Congress.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Speaker Boehner’s new budget proposal would essentially require, as the price of raising the debt ceiling again early next year, a choice between immediate deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, repeal of health reform’s coverage expansions, or wholesale evisceration of basic assistance programs for vulnerable Americans. If the Boehner plan is enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.
Educators understand that Congress must work to ensure America’s long-term economic prosperity and that we must address the nation’s serious fiscal challenges. However, cutting education funding and slashing programs that serve children, seniors, and working families is not the answer. NEA members see first-hand every day the struggles of many of their students and their families. We cannot afford a plan like the Speaker’s that will make these struggles even harder - essentially abandoning the poor and the middle class while continuing to cater to Wall Street and the wealthiest in our nation.
Dramatic spending cuts in programs that invest in America’s human capital will jeopardize the health, economic security, and education of millions of Americans. We cannot sacrifice America’s future prosperity by cutting education, health, and other programs that invest in students and their families. Many unemployed Americans are returning to education to pursue training in new careers — they need access to lifelong learning in the form of financial aid. School districts are slashing after-school programs, reducing learning time, and overcrowding classes — cutting federal funding will exacerbate these conditions and jeopardize the next generation’s future.
We are also deeply concerned about the proposed discretionary spending caps. However well-intentioned the notion of capping discretionary spending may be, this type of fiscal proposal is akin to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) ballot measures which have been repeatedly defeated in states across this country. And, where enacted, TABOR has held policymakers hostage to simplistic formulas perpetrated by their predecessors. In Colorado, TABOR resulted in a drop in per pupil K-12 education funding from $200 less than the national average in 1992 to $1000 less than the national average in 2006.
We believe any deficit reduction agreement must take a balanced approach that ensures shared sacrifice. Deficit reduction cannot come from spending cuts alone. We must increase revenue by scaling back tax breaks for millionaires and tax subsidies for corporations. The wealthiest one percent of Americans receives a quarter of all the income. Americans find this imbalance completely unacceptable and want their elected officials to work together to help Main Street hang on, not help Wall Street get more.
The political posturing and refusal to compromise has gone on long enough. Reckless political brinksmanship by a small, vocal minority is holding our nation’s financial stability, credibility, and future hostage. It is time for policymakers to compromise on a balanced approach. We urge you to reject the Boehner plan and to fight for a deal fight for a deal that protects the middle class and the most vulnerable and preserves the investments necessary to ensure our nation’s future strength.
Director of Government Relations
Manager of Federal Advocacy