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National Grange Blog: Show Me the Money

By Grace Boatright, National Grange Blog (2/18/11)

  FEBRUARY 19, 2011 --

Congress is currently addressing the daunting task of drafting the 2012 federal budget, a major issue given their new drive to cut federal spending and reduce the deficit. The current budget is set to expire March 4, forcing Congress to draft some sort of spending bill just to keep the government operating. On Monday, President Obama issued his own proposals for the 2012, $3.7 billion budget, and so far, his recommendations have been met with some harsh sentiment from Congress. Obama’s proposals include cutting $350 million from the Community Development Block Program, reducing the EPA’s funding by $1.3 billion, and reducing Pell grant funding for college students. Simultaneously, he intends to increase funding for projects like his high-speed railway system, set to cost an astounding $53 billion. 

Republicans see Obama’s budget as a feeble attempt to reduce government spending as they propose over $60 billion in reductions for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year. "This is business as usual at a time when bold, creative solutions are needed. This is not an I-got-the-message budget,” says Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Republicans have their own ideas for reducing government spending, including blocking federal aid to Planned Parenthood, reducing EPA funding by nearly $3 billion, and banning Pentagon dollars from sponsoring NASCAR teams, an expense most Americans are appalled to learn existed in the first place. As for foreign spending, the Defense Department’s budget has already been reduced by $78 billion over the next 5 years, and the Pentagon is now threatening that an additional reduction in funding could affect weapons programs, limit training, maintenance, and even payroll for personnel. Obviously, with 47,000 troops still in Iraq, protecting defense spending should become a priority for Congressional leaders. 

Programs like the Market Access Program (MAP) are also on the chopping block. Representative Scott Garret (R-NJ) is proposing to eliminate the program, created in 1985 and currently sustained at $200 million annually, which helps to create and maintain foreign markets for U.S. agricultural goods. Under Obama’s budget, funding for the Agriculture Department would be reduced by $3.2 billion, mostly affecting direct farm payments and subsidies to high-income farmers. Rural home loan programs and wetlands conservation programs would also be subject to a reduction in funding. The Obama administration claims this would save $2.5 billion over the next 10 years. On Monday, the Agricultural Department estimated that net farm income would exceed over $95 billion this year (Brasher*). That’s a 20% increase from 2010. Let’s hope their right, because with so many farming programs becoming a target for funding cuts, an increase in income might be the only thing to keep American farmers afloat. 

From the looks of things, nobody will escape the wrath of government spending cuts, from the Pentagon to American farmers. A current deficit of over $14 trillion, unemployment at 9.8%, and no end in sight, a reduction in spending is just what the country needs. Both sides seem to have mixed views on how to make that happen, but in Congress’ defense, I have a hard time balancing my checkbook, let alone billions of dollars spread over hundreds of programs with thousands of individuals pining for assistance. We better know the outcome before March 4, or we wont have a government to worry about. 

-Grace Boatright
National Grange Program Assistant 

* Brasher, Philip. “Vilsack calls subsidy cuts for large farms affordable.” 15 February 2011. Web. 18 February 2011.



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