Recently the Republicans in the House of Representatives tried to tie funds to deal with superstorm Sandy to cuts elsewhere - we'll help these people only if you help these others a bit less. Congressional salaries, the military, military contractors, must not be hurt, because dealing with millions would be too easy.
Remember how every little thing after Obama became President became a big problem? You want money for jobs? Take something away from something else? As long as that something else isn't defense or the banks or...
All of this, of course, was at the worst time of economic collapse, and all these things taken away took something out of the economy that we needed there.
So here I am, and this month I was suddenly eligible for $20 less in food stamps. That is, instead of $54 I was eligible for $34. In October I got a letter telling me that for that month I was still getting $54. But this month it is $34, part of changes in who is eligible. I vaguely remember Paul Ryan saying something about how there are more people on food stamps than ever, and so we need to make it harder to get them. It had nothing to do with the fact that more people are unemployed for longer than six months, and more people are working for low wages and cannot live on their earnings.
He did not consider that the anti-union that began with Reagan and the air traffic controllers, the anti-union laws that many states have passed, the fact that military families are told how to apply for food stamps. He did not consider that Walmart also expects its employees to apply for Medicaid and food stamps - I suppose they think that is providing benefits. He did not consider that the minimum wage he would like to wipe out was meant to be a living wage, and has not been that for decades.
I live by myself, and receive $951 per month from SSDI. Between the COLA this year and the cut in food stamps because of the increase in my income, I was okay until something out of the ordinary happened. (This community has helped me out of several of these crises.)
When the $20 makes the difference between an income just over or just under $1000 per month, it is an enormous amount. I will miss it more than a military contractor would miss $20 million. So this was the deal that got something else done.
This is just a small example of why we need to avoid any grand bargain that includes cuts to any human service programs, especially the big three, to avoid a fiscal cliff that will be fixed legislatively once the ball in Times Square falls. Personally, I like the idea of a Wall Street transaction tax, and considering capital gains on short-term investments like income from work. And the housing interest deduction that is so controversial could be fixed by making only one home per household deductible - it keeps the popular part for the middle class and does away with the regressive nature of the current deduction.
But plenty of solutions are there without making the kind of $20 cuts that actually hurt people.