By Senator Lena C. Taylor
Blues legend Johnnie Taylor sang about what’s it’s like to be down on your luck… “Just loan me two dollars, Until the next time I see you.” Released in 1997, Last Two Dollars was an instant hit, resonating across race, socioeconomic status and educational lines. Common experiences would dictate that regardless of your station in life, most people know what it means to deal with money issues: too much, too little, and everything in between.
It is with this understanding that we must pay attention to the warnings of U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. We either raise the debt ceiling by June 1st or risk running out of money to pay the nation’s bills. Congressional Republicans have decided to hold the process hostage until there is a commitment to reduce spending. Let’s take a look at what that might mean.
Big picture, the GOP plan would harm veterans, working class families, children, seniors and more. A recent fact sheet, released by the White House, highlighted many of the detrimental impacts of the Republican’s plan. Their proposed cuts would jeopardize transportation safety and infrastructure by withholding transportation infrastructure funding. U.S. cities and states could stand to lose nearly $5.2 billion in funding for transit and highway infrastructure projects.
American families would see the elimination preschool and childcare slots. It would translate to 200,000 children losing access to Head Start placements and 180,000 children losing access to childcare. Working families would have a harder time accepting employment without childcare. In addition, the GOP plan would strip nutrition assistance from families. An estimated 1.7 million women, infants, and children would lose vital nutrition assistance through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), increasing child poverty and hunger.
Other programs on the chopping block include 600,000 families losing access to rental assistance, including older adults, persons with disabilities, and families with children. Cuts to medical care for veterans would mean 30 million fewer outpatient visits, and 81,000 jobs lost across the Veterans Health Administration. Veterans would be delayed or unable to get appointments for care wellness visits, cancer screenings, mental health services, and substance use disorder treatment.
Sounding bad yet? It gets worse. The GOP plan would result in longer wait times on decisions when applying for disability benefits. Seniors would be on hold longer, during calls to Social Security and Medicare, with a suggested closure of 240 field offices. Those same adults could see reductions in food assistance. Access to health care and health coverage would be jeopardized and could impact 21 million Americans.
The list goes on and on. Cuts to opioid treatment, $4 billion reductions in funding for schools serving 26 million low-income children, reduced support for students with disabilities, and a slash to mental health support for students. The backdrop, to just a few of the cuts mentioned here, is Republican efforts to advance proposals that give tax cuts to the wealthy and huge corporate tax breaks. In the meantime, the rest of us will keep singing “Just loan me 2 dollars, until the next time I see you”.