Boehner Endangers His Own District with Safety Net Cuts

His Proposed Debt Limit Deal Makes Massive Reductions in Essential Services

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Republicans are pushing reckless cuts that would take America’s economy back half a century. Their "cuts only" approach to deficit reduction would force painful cuts in effective human needs programs such as SNAP/food stamps and Head Start while leaving tax breaks for hedge fund managers, corporate jet owners, and oil companies off the table. But how would such an approach affect Speaker Boehner’s own constituents in Ohio’s 8th congressional district?

We don’t know how many hedge fund managers live in the speaker’s district, but we’re guessing it’s less than the 88,889 constituents who live in poverty.[1] And while we don’t know how many corporate jet owners live in the speaker’s district, we’re guessing it’s less than the 30,240 constituent households who receive SNAP/food stamps.

What we know for sure is that that two companies that benefit from oil subsidies, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell, reported first-quarter profit increases of 69 percent and 30 percent, respectively, this year. And we know that the Census reported a nearly 50 percent increase in child poverty in the speaker’s district from 13.05 percent in 2008 to 19.1 percent in 2009.

Speaker Boehner insists that subsides for oil companies be protected in deficit negotiations. He has yet to announce such protection for the 356,068 women, infants, and children eligible for the WIC nutrition assistance program in Ohio.

We need to reduce our nation’s long-term deficits. But how we do so reflects our values and priorities as a country. Speaker Boehner’s “cuts only” approach as reflected in the Budget Control Act (S.627) is the wrong way forward. This legislation would raise the debt ceiling for only six months in exchange for $3 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years—$1.2 trillion passed now and another $1.8 trillion passed before the debt ceiling could be raised again. No revenue is included, and cuts are concentrated in parts of the budget that include programs that help struggling families such as Head Start and the women, infants, and children supplemental nutrition program.

The House plan would result in an enormous increase in poverty and hardship while keeping Congress mired in a never-ending debate over default crises instead of a focus on jobs. In fact, the speaker’s plan would break a 26-year policy of exempting basic low-income entitlement programs from across-the-board cuts, dropping all of the low-income exemptions that every past deficit reduction package has included since 1985.

It’s unconscionable to force cuts to programs helping the most vulnerable while leaving special tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers off the table. We encourage Speaker Boehner to check out these statistics for OH-8:

  • 180,000 people are on Medicare or Medicaid, comprising 27 percent of his district.
  • 4,000 households access some form of public housing assistance.[2]
  • 90,000 or 13.9 percent of the district lives below the poverty line.
  • Approximately 70,000 households receive Social Security benefits.
  • Over 30,000 households are eligible for the SNAP (food stamp) program and 20,000 low-income children are eligible for food and nutrition services.[3]
  • 500,000 unemployed workers receive job training and placement services in his state.

These types of priorities are bad for Speaker Boehner’s district and bad for the country.

Melissa Boteach is Manager of the Half in Ten program and Jessica Liu is an intern at American Progress.

Endnotes

[1]. American Community Survey figures are for 2009, the latest figures published by the Census.

[2]. From housing vouchers and certificates alone, estimated using county data.

[3]. Eligibility numbers are estimated for children 0-5 years old, via a method the Urban Institute detailed in the report "WIC Income Elligible Children by Congressional District and State" (2010), available at http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/412056_WIC_eligible.pdf.