House Republicans have now passed legislation that would drastically cut people off from a wide range of programs vital to their financial security in exchange for a promise to let the federal government honor its past commitments and pay its bills. These cuts if indeed enacted would sharply reduce spending on a number of programs in health care, food assistance, housing and a range of other programs. Many people will lose access to key programs as a result. The need for this type of assistance is widespread, even in a booming economy and it is generally larger in red states than in blue states. Republican lawmakers seem intent on hurting their constituents who already struggle more
The Republican legislation would cut access to a range of programs. Estimates for the overall cuts range from an estimated initial cut of 33% in 2024 by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, to an immediate reduction of 31% by my colleague Bobby Kogan to a 22% cut estimated by the White House, House Democrats and Senate Democrats. These numbers only differ because they assume different what-if scenarios – what would happen absent this legislation. The White House, House and Senate Democrats all compare the Republican proposal to current spending levels. Bobby Kogan and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue, correctly I would agree, that budgets that do not increase with inflation and population growth reflect budget cuts for the population that they serve. The estimates also differ in their assumptions on whether the VA will be protected from cuts or not. The bottom line in the end is that there is broad agreement that there will immediate cuts as large as one-third of the affected programs if defense and veterans’ medical care are protected and those cuts could grow significantly over time to roughly three-fifths of the impacted programs.
These cuts are so substantial because House Republicans have precluded any changes to the tax side of the ledger such as taking back wasteful Trump tax cuts to shrink the federal government’s deficit. They have also exempted the largest government program – Social Security, Medicare and defense. This means that the envisioned reduction of the deficit needs to come entirely from cuts to smaller programs.
Just because these are smaller programs does not mean that they are not crucial to the lives of people who benefit from them. 42.4 million people, for example, receive food assistance – officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It reduces food insecurity among adults by close to 20% and among children by more than 30%. People in the richest country in the world should not go hungry, yet Republicans seem dead set on worsening food insecurity.
The need for SNAP and other programs, for example, in health care, that would fall prey to Republicans’ budget cutting zeal is generally greater in red states than in blue states. For example, 12.4% of adults in red states often or sometimes go without eating three meals a day, while this was the case for 10.2% in blue states (see figure below). Similarly, 12.5% of adults in red states lacked health insurance in early 2023, while that was the case for 9.1% in blue states (see figure below). And, crucial in the context of long covid in the aftermath of the pandemic, 13.8% of people in red states had a disability while 11.4% of blue states did (see figure below). Not surprisingly then, people in red states face greater financial insecurity – measured by people’s inability to cover all of their expenses – than is the case for people in blue states – 41.6% compared to 37.7% (see figure below).
Even within states, the need for these programs is not evenly distributed. For example, people without a college degree face greater financial insecurity than is the case for people with a college degree. For example, 16% of people without a college degree struggle with food insecurity, compared to 3.9% of people with a college degree. These shares are again larger than those in blue states –14.6% and 3.0%, respectively. And, Black and Latino households struggle more than white households do. For example, combined data for 2022 to ensure large enough sample sizes shows that 50.3% of Black people in red states and 49.9% in blue states said that they could not pay for all of their expenses then. In comparison, 35.8% of white people in red states and 29.8% of white people in blue states indicated the same financial insecurity during that time.
The House Republicans’ budget proposal, if it were ever enacted, would make a bad situation worse in many red states. This is supported by the examples of Alabama and Texas – two red states where people struggle tend to struggle more financially than in many other red or blue states. Alamba is 45th in food security and Texas is 46th in 2021. Under the Republican budget plan, 29,000 women and children in Alabama and 17,000 older adults could loose food assistance in Alabama. Moreover, in Texas, 139,000 women and children and 53,000 older adults could loose food assistance. A lot of people still struggle, especially in red states, and Republicans are intent on making things worse.
Budgets reflect lawmakers’ values. House Republicans’ seem to be set on destroying the economic recovery and hurting working families, especially people without college degrees and people of color in red states, judging from their latest decision.