What's lost in the House budget cuts

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Organizations and people tell The Post what effect the House budget cuts would have. Below, responses from Ken Burns; James L. Jones; Thomas Mason and Persis Drell; Cecile Richards; Lavinia Limon; Ted Hesburgh; Bill Bradley, Tom Ridge and David Walker; Thomas Donnelly; Frank Newport; and Liz Blake.

KEN BURNS

Documentary filmmaker

The debate over government spending, while necessary, has come to threaten the cultural, educational and informational influences that help equip us for enlightened citizenship. Difficult decisions will have to be made - but not on the back of an infinitesimally small fraction of the deficit that the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities and public broadcasting represent.

With a minimum of funding, PBS manages to produce essential (commercial-free) children's programming and supplements the schedules of hundreds of other channels. It contributes to cradle-to-grave continuing education services that are particularly appreciated in rural states - belying the canard that this is programming for the rich and bi-coastal. It also gave William F. Buckley a home for 30 years.

Polls consistently show that huge majorities of all Americans support public broadcasting. In an age when nearly everyone selects their media on the basis of their political views, it's refreshing to have an in-depth option that periodically upsets the powers that be in both parties.

Many say that what can't survive in the marketplace doesn't deserve to survive. Not one of my documentaries, produced solely for PBS over the past 30 years, could have been made anywhere but on public broadcasting.

In the late 1980s, I told President Ronald Reagan I was working on a history of the Civil War. His eyes twinkled as he recalled watching, as a young boy, parades of ever-aging Union veterans marching down the main street of Dixon, Ill., on the Fourth of July. Then he spoke to me about the responsibility he saw for a private sector/governmental partnership between public broadcasting and the arts and humanities. Nearly a third of my budget for that series came from a corporation, a third from private foundations, and a third from the National Endowment for the Humanities. "Good work, he said.

Our funding model remains essentially the same. But proposals to defund the CPB and the Endowments will kill some of the best stuff on the tube and radio.

Click here for more from Ken Burns.

GEN. JAMES L. JONES

Senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center; national security adviser to President Obama from 2009 to 2010

Unrest in major Middle Eastern oil-producing countries and the resultant rise in global oil prices are stark reminders of America's severe economic and national security vulnerability to dependence on foreign oil. Even amid a necessary reevaluation of our economic priorities to address our unsustainable national debt, our nation must confront the security implications of energy and have these priorities reflected in our budget.

In 2007, Congress looked to the Defense Department's successful record developing transformative technologies through its DARPA program. It created an energy innovation program called ARPA-E to advance high-risk, high-reward technologies that enhance our national security. While new energy production technologies must ultimately be driven by the private sector and competitive markets, only the federal government has the rational incentive to make the early, up-front investments in the real technology breakthroughs - such as durable electricity storage, advanced modular nuclear reactors and the development of new transportation fuels.

ARPA-E enjoys several unusual but critical institutional attributes - independent hiring authority to bring in the best minds from academia and the private sector, autonomous decision-making ability, and the capacity to take risks. These attributes are vital to achieving success in our globalized, 21st-century economy and should become increasingly more commonplace throughout the rest of our government.

Accelerating innovation in energy technologies - especially those that will help cut our oil dependence - must be understood as a core national security investment. We could offset the roughly $500 million ARPA-E budget many times over were Congress to place shared national interests firmly before partisan or parochial ones when identifying our security priorities.

THOMAS MASON AND PERSIS DRELL

Respectively, the director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Fully half of U.S. economic growth since 1945 can be attributed to investments in science and technology. Our colleagues Paul Alivisatos, Eric Isaacs, Sam Aronson and Michael Kluse - the other directors of the Department of Energy's Multi-program National Laboratories - agree that the competitive advantage the United States retains in technological innovation would be seriously jeopardized by extensive cuts to research proposed in House Resolution 1 for fiscal 2011. These reductions ignore the fact that innovation - not trade policies or labor costs - is the most important factor in global economic competitiveness and continued American prosperity.

The dramatic proposed cuts came just weeks after Congress extended the America Competes Act (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science). This bipartisan legislation was a statement that even in difficult times a priority should be placed on federally funded research tied to innovations that spawn new products and companies.

The United States still has the ability to compete successfully, but only if we invest in the scientific talent and infrastructure critical to fueling the private sector's need for new technologies. Whether it's a smartphone, a new drug or a battery that powers an electric car from Washington to Indianapolis, publicly supported research is almost always an essential contribution in the discovery chain.

Science will not be exempted from the sacrifices that have to be made across the entire federal budget. The challenge is to prioritize these reductions in a more thoughtful way that does not result in lasting damage to America's capacity for innovation.

Just as we cannot fix an overweight plane by removing an engine, we should not attemot to fix a deficit problem by removing America's ability to compete.

CECILE RICHARDS

President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

The extreme proposals in H.R. 1 would effectively take primary and preventive health care from millions of women. Planned Parenthood performs a central function in the public health safety net; the doctors and nurses in our 800-plus health centers see 3 million women a year. No other provider could step in and offer equivalent care.

Yet under H.R. 1, Planned Parenthood health centers would be barred from receiving any federal funds, including Medicaid payments and funds for breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, family planning, annual exams, HIV testing, and testing and treatment for other sexually transmitted infections.

More than 90 percent of the care our health centers offer is preventive. We annually provide affordable contraception for nearly 2.5 million patients, nearly 1 million cervical cancer screenings, 830,000 breast exams, and 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including a half-million HIV tests. A 2009 survey found that six in 10 women who receive care from women's health centers like ours consider it to be their main source of health care.

H.R. 1 would also eliminate funding for the national family planning program, known as Title X, which provides health care to 5 million women every year. Gutting this 40-year-old program and prohibiting all federal funding for Planned Parenthood will deny millions of women across the country basic primary and preventive health care. It will result in more unintended pregnancies, more unhealthy pregnancies, and more women with cervical and breast cancer not being diagnosed until it is too late. This is a war on women's health. It must stop.

LAVINIA LIMON

President and chief executive of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

The budget cuts proposed in the House would essentially shut down the U.S. Refugee Program, sending a clear message to the world that we as Americans are closing our doors. That is not the message we should be sending.

Throughout our nation's history, refugees seeking freedom and opportunity have come here with little more than their hopes and aspirations. Each generation of newcomers has given back by helping to build and defend this country, serving in the armed forces, and swearing allegiance to their new homeland while becoming proud American citizens.

The economic recession has been terrible: Too many Americans are out of work, and a striking number have lost their homes to foreclosure. To many, this may seem like the wrong time to help immigrants and refugees. In fact, it is exactly the right time.

Immigrants bring their dreams, energy and education to their new country. They start new businesses, pay taxes and help the economy. Refugees flee from persecution, war and genocide - risking their lives for the freedoms we take for granted.

The House recommended cuts that will affect the most vulnerable communities and change the way the world views our nation. This is unacceptable, and the Senate should not let this happen. American history is largely the history of refugees and immigrants. We are known the world over for our values and humanitarian assistance. As the Senate deliberates on the budget, its members should not close our doors.

TED HESBURGH

Co-chair of the United States Institute of Peace National Campaign for Peacemaking; president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame

As a man of faith and reason, I know we need to balance our national budget. But I also know that you cannot balance a budget on the backs of our men and women in uniform, nor bring peace through the costly sacrifices of our military alone.

That the House would eliminate funding for the U.S. Institute of Peace is astounding and detrimental to the cause of peace. The institute's yearly budget is minuscule - less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the State Department's budget.

In the last century, wars great and small cut short the lives of more than 100 million people. Now is not the time to cut funding for international peace. Congress's creation of the USIP in 1984 was a wise investment that continues to pay dividends in the training and education of experts who support our military and diplomats around the world.

Today, small conflicts in distant lands can destroy lives and economies oceans away. In the USIP our nation has an organization that understands the sources of violence and trains in the tools to prevent it.

If the United States is serious about being a leader in peacemaking, its elected leaders and citizens must defend the institutions that are doing the hard work to facilitate the transition from war to peace. We must, as a nation, show foresight, steadiness of purpose and commitment to international peacebuilding.

Click here for more from Ted Hesburgh.

BILL BRADLEY, TOM RIDGE AND DAVID WALKER

Respectively, a former U.S. senator from New Jersey; former governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of homeland security in the George W. Bush administration; chief executive of the Comeback America Initiative and former U.S. comptroller general. They lead a transportation solvency project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

While there are many legitimate disagreements regarding how to cut the deficit, the continuing resolution the House passed last week goes too far by cutting almost 20 percent in the transportation budget - the largest percentage cut in all domestic discretionary programs. A nation that does not maintain its infrastructure is doomed to economic decline. We look at U.S. spending as a Democrat, a Republican and an independent - and we believe our nation needs to invest more, not less, in infrastructure.

This does not mean that improvements shouldn't be made. At present 80 percent of federal transportation funds are distributed by formula - with no competition and no performance requirements. That must stop. We must make every dollar contribute to transportation performance. All transportation spending should be consolidated into a unified transportation trust fund subject to rigorous, independent cost-benefit analysis.

A better transportation system will enhance our economic and national security and will rebuild public trust in public investments. Many new members of Congress are rightly furious about wasteful spending. By squeezing every ounce of investment gain from our infrastructure dollar we can create a transportation program that both deficit hawks and program reform leaders can get behind.

THOMAS DONNELLY

Director of the Center for Defense Studies at the American Enterprise Institute

The most damaging cuts in the 2012 defense budget may be among the hardest to detect. Tucked away in the Army and Marine Corps personnel accounts will be reductions in recruiting and retention spending that reflect the first, thin edge of the force cuts that won't be fully implemented for a couple of years. But by then the die will have been cast, not only for America's land forces but also for our presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and whatever other future conflict will - inevitably, whether we admit it or not - require boots on the ground.

The force cuts will take away almost all of the tardy and inadequate increases of the late Bush years; with the Iraq "surge" of 2007 came the belated recognition that the size of the Army and Marine Corps could not sustain the effort needed. Despite painful lessons to the contrary, our nation is on the cusp of a thank-God-that's-over moment - just as the Greater Middle East, the theater where land forces have proved so essential, appears to be on the verge of the kind of democratic revolution for which so many soldiers and Marines have fought and died over the past generation.

When Defense Secretary Robert Gates addressed cadets at West Point on Friday, he told them, "When it comes to predicting the nature and location of our next military engagements, since Vietnam, our record is perfect: we have never once gotten it right." The cuts in the fiscal 2012 defense budget are a bet that our withdrawal plans for Iraq and Afghanistan will go as planned for the next three years and that nothing new will come up. In other words, our record of perfection will remain intact.

FRANK NEWPORT

President, American Association for Public Opinion Research

The House-passed budget proposal includes $150 million in cuts for U.S. Census Bureau operations. These are penny-wise and pound-foolish. The investment the nation makes in gathering and publishing information about its citizens pays for itself many times over.

The Census Bureau provides a fundamental service by continually measuring trends and changes in population and businesses - such data are vital to the nation's industries and to our collective ability to be economically competitive. Accurate census information is useful to entrepreneurs considering investments, businesses' decisions on locations or labor force, community planning, and more.

More than $400 billion in federal program funding is based on information the Census Bureau has gathered in the years between the decennial censuses. Congressional decisions on policy and legislation often depend directly on information provided by the bureau.

Our association represents more than 2,000 of the nation's leading marketing and survey researchers from business, industry, government agencies and the educational system. We understand that the census is the backbone and underlying structure of much of our profession's work.

The key to economic and business success today is knowledge. Information provided by the Census Bureau is among the nation's most critical data. The Senate should restore these funds.

LIZ BLAKE

Senior vice president, Habitat for Humanity International

Proposed cuts to national service initiatives would eliminate highly valuable and cost-effective investments in underserved communities. These initiatives leverage dollars and manpower and provide jobs and skills development where citizens need it most.

Each year, Corporation for National and Community Service members leverage more than $800 million from businesses, foundations and other non-federal sources. These funds provide critical services such as affordable and sustainable housing for low-income families, youth mentoring, veterans' services and teachers for urban schools. Nonprofit organizations also match a percentage of government funding.

Three million community volunteers each year are mobilized and managed by CNCS-funded programs nationwide - mentoring, teaching, building and serving their fellow citizens. Without this human capital, significant work in schools, job sites and community centers would go undone. These volunteer networks strengthen the capacity of community organizations and lessen the burden on local government.

Habitat for Humanity and organizations like it across the country would not be able to provide critical services without the leadership and leverage of AmeriCorps members and others. National service is investment in America.


© 2011 The Washington Post Company

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