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.
I’ve been writing a lot lately about the Era of Contraction – the shrinking of the federal government – and what that policy means to Indian Country.
Only not this year. Last week Congress finally approved money for fiscal year 2012 (three months into the spending year) and many programs serving American Indians will get more money, not less.
First, the big picture. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, describes this year’s spending bill this way: “When all FY 2012 Appropriations legislation is complete, Congress will have cut discretionary spending for two straight years in a row – the first time this has occurred in modern history.”
Indeed: This budget is about less.
The Environmental Protection Agency takes a 6 percent cut from the president’s request or a budget of $8.4 billion. The House conference report makes clear that EPA is a Republican budget target because it represents “unnecessary spending” and a “regulatory overreach, which has a detrimental effect on American businesses and the recovering economy.” (To give an example of the spite towards EPA. The administrator’s budget is cut by one-third.) Of course even these numbers are more than Republicans wanted to spend. The House was proposing funding EPA at only $7.1 billion.
The Administration for Children and Families takes a hit of $855 million (even though the demand for services is increasing). But defying logic, Congress also appropriated $5 million for abstinence education, money that was not asked for in the president’s budget.
Other agency reductions include 3 percent less for the Internal Revenue Service, a 5 percent cut for Homeland Security, and a 5 percent cut from Congress’ own budget.