Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s recent book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.
So far, most of the government’s austerity movement has been theoretical. We know the federal budget is shrinking, but the evidence of that has been slow to surface.
Proposals to wipe out the Bureau of Indian Affairs (and replace it with what?) remain little more than spin. Kentucky Sen. Paul Rand’s bill, for example, has no co-sponsors, no hearing schedule and no chance.
But real budget cuts, the kind that will have deep and lasting impact in Native American communities across the country, are starting to take shape.
Last week the Office of Management and Budget sent a memorandum to agencies outlining an approach to the coming budget.
“In light of the tight limits on discretionary spending starting in 2012, your 2013 budget submission to OMB should provide options to support the President’s commitment to cut waste and reorder priorities to achieve deficit reduction while investing in those areas critical to job creation and economic growth,” writes Jacob J. Lew, OMB’s director. “Unless your agency has been given explicit direction otherwise by OMB, your overall agency request for 2013 should be at least 5 percent below your 2011 enacted discretionary appropriation. As discussed at the recent Cabinet meetings, your 2013 budget submission should also identify additional discretionary funding reductions that would bring your request to a level that is at least 10 percent below your 2011 enacted discretionary appropriation.”
Lew writes that two budget scenarios give the president enough information to “make the tough choices necessary to meet the hard spending targets.”
Further, the agencies are told they have to make these reductions “without across-the-board reductions or reductions to mandatory spending in appropriations bills, reclassifications of existing discretionary spending to mandatory, or enactment of new user fees to offset existing spending.”