If a budget is a statement of values, a group of congressional Republicans just told Maine to shove it.

The far-right House Freedom Caucus, which holds enough power in the chamber to sink any legislation, unveiled last week a list of federal spending it wants cut in exchange for votes to raise the country’s debt ceiling — previewing a showdown that will put a lot of people’s well-being on the line.

There’s no way around it: Caving to the Freedom Caucus’ demands, which mirror the ideas coming from other corners of conservatism, would devastate Maine.

The demands were issued in response to President Biden’s own budget, which he says would cut deficits by nearly $3 trillion over 10 years by raising taxes on wealthy Americans. It also increases federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks after a closed-door meeting with the GOP conference earlier this year. Alex Brandon/Associated Press

A member of the Freedom Caucus called it “dead on arrival.” Caucus members say they can save $3 trillion, too — and without raising taxes at all, and without cutting Social Security and Medicare.

And they absolutely can do that. But the numbers don’t lie: Their plan would gut important programs and services that keep people and our communities afloat.


Take Medicaid, which covers 39% of all children in the U.S., and 30% of Maine kids.

The Republican plan would save money by eliminating Medicaid expansions under Obamacare, which in Maine has given people access to health care who really need it and would otherwise not have it, while helping support rural health care providers.

If it’s eliminated, the people who depend on it now would end up less healthy, as would the hospitals that benefit their communities in a million different ways. The long-term costs would far outweigh the short-term savings.

Republicans also want to add work requirements for Medicaid, as well as food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Again, work requirements would save money — in the short term at least — but many Mainers would be left hungry and without health care.

Remember, when work requirements were added to the Maine SNAP program during the LePage administration, it didn’t cause more people to enter to the workforce, but it sure did hammer the state’s food banks, which were inundated with people who weren’t getting enough to eat.


House Republicans, by their own admission, would also gut low-income housing programs, at a time when the rising cost of housing has made shelter unaffordable for so many Mainers, and heating assistance, when every winter is a struggle for many Maine families.

They’d cut federal education subsidies, which are scheduled to bring Maine’s K-12 schools nearly $200 million in 2024, as well as items like Pell grants, which help students with significant financial need go to college.

House Republicans say all this cutting is necessary to get federal spending under control and reduce the deficits Washington runs as a matter of course.

But there’s reason to think they are not quite as concerned about spending as they say. As part of their plan, Republicans would revoke the budget increase for the IRS passed by Democrats in the Inflation Reduction Act — an increase that would bolster the agency’s ability to go after high-earning tax cheats, rather than the low-income folks it largely targets for audits now.

Republicans also want to repeal the IRA’s provision that lowers drug costs for Medicare recipients, which will help cut the federal deficit.

And they want to cut parts of the IRA that are super-charging clean-energy investments all over rural America, including in places like Aroostook County, where solar and wind projects are spurring economic development of all kinds, and Downeast, which could emerge as a manufacturing hub for the growing offshore wind industry.


That’s real investment in American workers and their communities.

You can compare it to the tax cuts passed by Republicans under President Trump, which are now considered untouchable by conservatives.

Those tax cuts, designed to benefit the richest individuals and corporations, never paid for themselves and never will. Instead, they’re expected to contributed $1.9 trillion to the national debt.

So, under the House Republican plan, the richest Americans would continue to enjoy tax breaks, while the poorest lose access to food assistance, health care, and a million other programs that help keep them above water when they really need it.

More than that, they have no plan for the areas of country plagued by poverty except to discourage investment in new industries and cut programs that again and again have been shown to improve self-sufficiency, not encourage more dependency.

Because of a split Congress, thankfully, the House Republican budget won’t make it into law unchanged.

But as a statement of values, it is pretty clear.

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