The Austerity Cliff
With news that the U.S. economy shrank in the last quarter for the first time since 2009, use the moment to explain how we’re only seeing a mini-preview of the upcoming cliff — the massive hit to our economy from the “sequestration” cuts to domestic programs — and reorient the debate to the need for investments that fuel growth and job creation, rather than forcing European-style austerity on America.
Our economy still faces a cliff: European-style austerity.
Connect: It’s been a long and tough road. We need to move our economy forward.
State of play: America still faces a cliff: massive cuts to education, public safety, and high-tech research that go automatically into effect if our lawmakers do nothing.
Define: After already forcing trillions in cuts, causing layoffs and strangling our economic growth, Republicans in Congress want to force European-style austerity on America — inviting another recession.
Explain: Cutting investments in our home front takes work away from companies that do business with our government and money out of the pockets of regular people who keep our stores thriving and hiring.
Offer solutions: Cut waste, not jobs. Cut what we don’t need like corporate tax loopholes, Pentagon pork, and Big Oil subsidies — instead of dragging down our economy by cutting the things we do need.
ATTACKS AND RESPONSES
QUESTION: “How can you support cuts to the Pentagon budget that threaten jobs in your home state?”
With the wars ending, it’s time for the Pentagon budget to come down — and even defense industry CEOs, some conservative thinkers, and some Republicans in Congress agree.
This process needs to happen in a responsible way that supports affected families and communities. There’s no shortage of valuable work that our country needs done — from repairing crumbling roads, bridges, and schools, to spurring high-tech work like designing and building smart grid and renewable energy technology.
Clearly we have lots of ways to put more Americans back to work! These are jobs that future generations will depend on and our local communities benefit from — not from forcing our military to build pork projects that the country doesn’t need for our national security.
But instead of reshaping the Pentagon budget to fight 21st century threats, some Republicans in Congress are protecting million dollar CEO salaries and tax loopholes for millionaires.
And they’re pushing for more massive spending cuts to our home front that will lay off even more Americans, dollar-for-dollar, than spending on Pentagon projects.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The U.S. economy shrunk slightly in the fourth quarter of last year, contracting by 0.1% instead of growing by 1% as analysts expected. It represents the first economic contraction since 2009.
Republicans in Congress got us here by pushing for massive spending cuts that threw Americans out of work, repeatedly threatening default, and strangling job creation efforts ever since President Obama came into office.
Pentagon spending ranks dead last as a way to create jobs compared to investing the same amount in health care, clean energy, or education.
Congress has already passed $1.7 trillion in cuts in one bill alone — about $2.50 in spending cuts for every $1 in new tax revenue — hitting our home front investments like our schools, public safety, disaster preparedness, and scientific research.
Most of these funding cuts come from our home front programs, which include essentially all federal efforts to keep our air, water, food, prescription drugs, consumer products, workplaces, and borders safe. It also includes funding for medical and scientific research, veterans’ health care, nutrition and child care assistance to low-income families, the Smithsonian, and NASA.
Due to those funding cuts, and not counting the new funding cuts that begin in March, home front funding will drop to historic lows — almost 15% lower than its lowest point in the past 50 years.
If the automatic spending cuts under sequestration go through in March, we will be cutting $4 in spending for every $1 in revenue — with 80% of the total money paid for by middle-class and low-income families instead of the wealthiest Americans or big corporations.
Due to all the loopholes and special tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations in our tax code, finding the money to help avoid the austerity cliff wouldn’t be hard: we can find $1 trillion in new revenue over 10 years by closing just a few of these special tax breaks.
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