Obama, Congress Ratify Social Spending Cuts
by Patrick Martin
December 19, 2011
The budget agreement passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama Saturday puts in place cuts for the current fiscal year that target social spending, particular energy assistance and education.
One of the biggest single cuts comes in low-income heating assistance, which is slashed 25 percent, or $1.2 billion, compared to last year’s figure. This cut is particularly cruel, coming at the onset of winter, and insuring that tens of thousands of poor and elderly people will face the danger of hypothermia and potential death.
Another $1.4 billion was cut from labor, health and education spending, including $225 million from the outright elimination of 22 separate programs, many of them related to job training.
An estimated 100,000 youth will be cut off Pell grants, the main program for aiding low-income college students, and the maximum amount of the grant will be frozen at $5,500 for another year, forcing millions of students to bear the brunt of sharply rising tuition and fees. Total cuts in Pell grants, spread over several years, come to $1.36 billion.
The basic outlines of the budget were determined by the bipartisan agreement last August that raised the federal debt ceiling and set limits on the total amount of spending for the current fiscal year, which began September 30. Both the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House adhered to these ceilings.
The House passed a $915 billion omnibus appropriations bill that combined the spending for 10 federal departments — including Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor — as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, into a single 1,200-page bill.
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