Lest we get too caught up in the joy and concern wrought by events in Egypt, we should not forget to pay attention to what’s happening at home. For those of us who care about American democracy, the budget cuts currently proposed by the Republicans should give us serious pause.
A recent fundraising plea from Planned Parenthood advises us: “The attacks on women's health have already begun. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) has introduced legislation that would take away insurance coverage for abortion from millions of women. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, removing federal dollars for family planning, contraception and basic preventive care. And in state after state, newly elected governors and legislatures are pursuing a dangerous anti-choice agenda that threatens to turn back the clock on reproductive rights.”
Yesterday, as Egyptians celebrated what they hope will be new freedom in their country, ours attempted to take a step back as Republicans rolled out “historic cuts in federal spending.” The newly empowered Conservatives are demanding that Congress cut $100 billion from the nation’s current budget – without even waiting to see what President Obama proposes. Because what they want to do is what they’ve always wanted: to disempower women and, as reported in yesterday’s New York Times: “Republicans take aim at some of their favorite targets in the measure, reducing financing to the Environmental Protection Agency by $3 billion — an almost 30 percent cut from current levels. The measure would also block the agency from implementing new emissions regulations, and it would cut more than $100 million in spending on climate change programs. Housing, energy and transportation spending is also trimmed substantially. Dozens of programs, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, are eliminated.”
Naturally, the Republicans are leaving Defense off the chopping block, because there’s absolutely nothing in the Defense budget that could be vastly improved by reduction, reallocation, or an examination of fraud, waste and mismanagement. Instead, as usual, the Republicans are looking at things – like public housing, health care and the arts – that have a direct impact on the lives of ordinary people, rather than challenging the stupidities of the Republican status quo. They are sincerely trying to fulfill their “Pledge to America,” as stated during the November, 2010 election. If we want to foster the real, more compassionate, and more sensible changes proposed by President Obama during the 2008 election, we can’t afford to be passive. Our rights, privileges and the best of American society depend on our speaking out.
Indeed, if ever there was a time to write to your Congressional representative, especially if he or she is a Republican, it’s now. There’s going to be a battle about this plan and the opportunity for line-item vetoes by the President may again be an option. But public opinion must be heard, and loudly, for harmful, people-hurting cuts to be avoided or opposed. Our phones and our email are our Tahrir Square. May we assemble quickly, because the votes will be taken next week!