B’nai B’rith International, a longtime advocate for seniors, is relieved that Congress reached a bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling. A default would have been devastating to the country and we welcome lawmakers’ efforts to reach an agreement.
But at the same time, B’nai B’rith is concerned that the most vulnerable Americans could be at risk as plan details fall into place.
“It is a relief that after months of negotiations, the country will not default on its loans,” Allan J. Jacobs, B’nai B’rith International president, said. “But we are greatly concerned that the amount of cuts already included in the deal will be most devastating for those on fixed incomes, who rely on government programs such as housing assistance, food stamps and home heating assistance, just to meet basic day-to-day needs. These are significant cuts, and the second stage of this plan could go even further, when everything is on the table.”
The new plan cuts the deficit in two stages. In the first, non-defense discretionary spending programs take significant hits. Although entitlement benefits in programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid are not cut in this round, they could possibly be targeted in a second round of deal making during discussions of a bipartisan Congressional “super committee.” Large mandatory cuts in defense and non-defense discretionary programs are used as an incentive or “trigger” for the sides to replace them with a deal in the second round, which could include entitlement changes, new revenues, discretionary cuts or any combination of those.
If no deal is reached by the super committee, domestic discretionary non-defense and defense spending (but not low income and entitlement programs) would be slashed equally. B’nai B’rith is concerned that the vital safety nets of Social Security and Medicare, as well as various aging programs, will be among the first programs facing steep cuts in a second-round deal.
“We understand the interest in cutting the deficit, but to do so without real balance means serving fewer people when millions of Americans, many of them elderly, already need more help with healthcare, housing, retirement income, food and energy assistance,” B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said.
B’nai B’rith will continue to watch as the final deal is sealed to ensure the poorest among us do not go without basic needs, like food or housing.