Sequestration hits Michigan housing

Some 3,000 fewer low-income households in Michigan — including seniors, those with disabilities and families with children — used housing vouchers to rent private housing in December, compared with a year ago, according to new estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

That’s the fallout from across-the-board federal sequestration cuts, which started nearly a year ago. The projections were based on new Department of Housing and Urban Development data. (more…)

Still unemployed? Sequestration hurts!

To many, the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration may seem like an abstraction, but Michigan long-term unemployed workers are feeling it in a very real-world way.

Workers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks collect Emergency Unemployment Compensation until they find a job. Because EUC is fully federally funded, it is subject to the across-the-board cuts demanded by sequestration.

For Michigan workers collecting EUC, this translates into a 10.7% cut in their weekly benefit beginning with their first payment this month. (more…)

New Ryan budget: Same as old, only worse

Last year’s GOP budget proposal, penned by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, was so extreme that it was described as “Robin Hood in reverse—on steroids.”

This budget would have dismantled key components of the social safety net, while giving generous tax breaks to corporations and wealthy families and boosting defense spending.

Had it not been opposed by the Senate, the 2012 Ryan Budget would have inflicted great damage to Michigan —and in fact, to the country as a whole. (more…)

Sequestration is here. What now?

It is March 1, and we now have the sequester to ponder. Though we took a flying leap and have landed at the bottom, Congress can undo the sequester by replacing it with a more responsible and balanced approach to deficit reduction during negotiations for the current fiscal year that ends in October.

Thursday, in a last-ditch effort to avert sequestration, both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate proposed and voted down two different sequestration-replacement bills. With no other plans to replace the sequester, across-the-board spending cuts were allowed to go into effect today. (more…)

Fiscal cliff in sight — again

Just two months after the last fiscal cliff threat, we’re in sight of yet another one.

If the sequester is allowed to go into effect on March 1 (just one week from today), fewer Michigan kids will be served by Head Start, emergency shelters will lose support and heating assistance to low-income households will be cut.

Congress is unlikely to take up discussion of taxes in this round of negotiations (most were resolved permanently by the American Tax Payer Relief Act earlier this year). Instead, the new fiscal cliff is all about how to avoid the spending cuts required by sequestration. (more…)

Senate Democrats announce a new fiscal cliff bill

Late on Valentine’s Day, Senate Democrats unveiled a new bill, the “American Family Economic Protection Act,” that would avert sequestration until Jan. 2, 2014. The Senate is expected to vote on this bill when it returns from recess next week.

The bill replaces the across-the-board indiscriminate sequester cuts with $110 billion in deficit reduction that protects non-defense discretionary programs benefiting low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities. It takes a balanced approach to the sequester cuts for the remainder of the year through a 1:1 ratio of new revenue and spending cuts phased in over 10 years:

  • The bill raises $55 billion in revenue by applying the Buffet Rule to households earning more than $1 million; by ending tax breaks for corporations who ship jobs overseas; and by closing a loophole that benefits refineries that extract oil from tar sands.
  • The bill includes another $55 billion in spending cuts that are divided equally between defense and non-defense programs. The $27.5 billion in non-defense discretionary cuts target agricultural subsidies, while programs that help working families, seniors, children and people with disabilities are exempt. (more…)

Fiscal slope: Do’s and Don’ts

There are roughly six weeks left before the expiration of the Bush tax cuts  and the start of sequestration. In those six weeks, Congress has a whole lot of work to do to put the country on a more responsible fiscal path.

A responsible fiscal path not only entails tackling the deficit and reducing our debt to a manageable level, but also taking a balanced approach while doing so. A balanced approach gives us a better chance of working on our fiscal troubles while avoiding harm to our recovering economy and to families who have fallen on hard times. (more…)