What the budget battle could mean for Alabama residents
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Feb 18, 2011 | 1971 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Some observers are daring to suggest that Speaker John Boehner should get his facts right when he starts bragging that Republicans have no problem with cutting the 200,000 federal jobs that have been added since President Obama took office.

But give the speaker a break. Charging the president with burdening the taxpayer with 200,000 workers sounds better than telling voters that only around 58,000 federal jobs were added and that the bureaucracy is smaller today than it was 10 years ago. In fact, on a per-capita basis, government employment is at its lowest level since 1962, when Barack Obama was a toddler.

Boehner’s slipup is just another example of a politician doing a bit of exaggerating to help his cause — right?

However, this less-than-the-truth should get us ready for the bigger budget battles to come, battles in which things that affect Alabama will be on the table.

While space prohibits us from considering all the ways proposed budget cuts outlined by President Obama and by the GOP might hit this state hard, here are a couple to consider.

Though decried as a social-spending liberal, the Obama budget just released would cut by more than half the money that goes into the Low Income Heating Assistance Program, which helped the poor — of which Alabama has many — pay the ever-rising cost of keeping warm or keeping cool. In 2009, more than 98,000 Alabama households received help in winter months and more than 68,000 got help in the summer. The only problem Republicans seem to have with the president’s plan is to want to see it cut more.

Same for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, which helped feed and care for 145,001 Alabama children and pregnant women last year. About the only thing the GOP is likely to say about the Obama plan to cut this might be “we thought of it first.”

Having bowed to Tea Party activists and dropped earmarks from the budget, Alabama congressmen are not likely to get the state the infrastructure and education goodies they have brought home in the past. And trying to slip such things into other parts of the budget will be difficult , as the speaker learned when a bipartisan committee with a majority of Republicans rejected a jet engine that the Pentagon did not want but that Boehner did, since it would have been assembled in his state.

The biggest budget battle brewing may be over agriculture, which receives more than $5 billion annually from subsidy programs. In 2009, Alabama farmers picked up $178 million in subsidies, and though most of this went to agribusiness enterprises, the impact of this money on the state’s economy is significant. (According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 70 percent of Alabama farmers did not receive subsidies.) Though this battle may be delayed until Congress crafts a new farm bill later this year, it is coming.

All of which is to say, get ready. Change is in the wind, and it will not be something that happens to someone else. Meanwhile, beware of politicians who look at the jobs that will be lost and the damage that will be done and say, as Speaker Boehner so cavalierly did, “so be it.”

It is not his job at risk.
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What the budget battle could mean for Alabama residents by The Anniston Star Editorial Board

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