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President Obama’s Home Energy Cuts a Test for GOP

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As bad as the news is that President Obama wants to slash federal home-energy assistance — and it is bad news, indeed — the decision sets up a crucial test for Republican lawmakers bent on taking the budget ax to this, and other critical domestic programs.

Obama reportedly would cut billions from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, in the budget plan he submitted to Congress on Monday for the 2012 federal fiscal year that begins in October of this year.

That Obama and the congressional GOP are in a bitter budget showdown is clear in the face of political pressure to bring down the mounting federal budget deficit and national debt.

But, unlike many of the cuts Republicans have proposed — such as those to such programs as the National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, which may seem fluffy, and expendable in the name of fiscal discipline — it’s hard to argue that reductions to LIHEAP will hurt average Americans.

Obama’s proposed cuts, for instance, would throw 3.1 million households off energy assistance, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA). This isn’t some kind of optional money. These are dollars that millions of Americans count on to keep the heat on when it gets deadly cold. Without this program, many simply couldn’t pay their utility bills, and would watch helplessly as their home thermostats plummet.

Nor is LIHEAP just some program for the very poor or other population distantly removed from the average American. The number of households requesting help to offset the increasing cost of home energy is expected to reach record levels in FY 2011 for the third year in a row. The number of households served by LIHEAP has increased from about 5.8 million in FY 2008, to 7.7 million in FY 2009, to 8.3 million in FY 2010. The number of households served in FY 2011 is projected to increase to 8.9 million. The increase is being driven primarily by the weak economy and continued higher energy prices, NEADA says.  This means at least one of your neighbors likely is relying on LIHEAP — if you are lucky enough not to need it yourself.  The people who rely on LIHEAP vote, and even Republicans realize this.  That’s why several GOP senators, including conservative Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, signed on to a letter last year looking not to cut funding — but increase it.

So this is where that test for Republicans comes in.  The president’s call to slash LIHEAP even in the midst of a down economy and continued widespread unemployment means it would cause real, serious pain for millions of Americans, including those who are basically middle-class but struggling to remain there.

Federal budget-cutting is no longer an abstract concept, if it ever was. It is real, and real Americans (read voters) will feel it.  That’s why Maine’s two Republican senators, who otherwise would go along with all of this budget-cutting, have forcefully come out against Obama’s LIHEAP cuts. One of them, it should be noted, Sen. Olympia Snowe, is up for re-election next year, right as many potential voters literally would be freezing.  Energy assistance, the Maine Republicans note, “is a necessity, not a luxury.”  This begs the question: If Republicans aren’t willing to slash LIHEAP, where are they willing to cut?

These budget cuts are going to hurt, after all. LIHEAP is hardly the only necessity on the chopping block. Voters are going to get angry if many of these proposed cuts come to pass, as the Maine senators have seemed to realize.  Maybe this whole meat-ax approach to the federal budget isn’t such a good idea, after all. 

The good news is that there are better ways to cut the budget, if only Republicans would listen?

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About Scott Nance

  • Clavos

    Of course not, Andy. To the liberals, the people are the Great Unwashed Masses, who are stupid and ignorant and who don’t even know what’s good for them; therefore, must be “protected” by their kindly and benevolent government.

    This takes money, ergo the need for another 5K IRS agents.

  • Let me get this straight…Obama proposes cuts to home heating asistance and it’s a republican issue?
    I’d say he can keep spending money on home heating and forget about hiring 5000 new IRS agents!
    Democrats just don’t get it! We want less govt and Obama says he wants to hire more IRS agents…Hello! Is anyone in DC listening to hte people?

  • None so far has been presented.

  • Boeke

    And, of course, it never occurs to your opaque mind that there may be some other course.

  • Clavos

    Oh and Glenn,

    I remain conservative, not for the reasons you state, but because I see nothing to support in liberal dogma.

  • Clavos


    Your beef is still with your state legislators — for their corruption — and with your federal government, for its failure to prosecute the corporate greed.

    Left unfettered, greed will win out always, as it does now, not only on the part of the corporations, but also on the part of the legislators and indeed, anyone remotely connected with government.

  • Clavos

    27-Glenn, yes, Clavos is fixed in his course; there is nothing that will divert him. Skip over his comments: nothing you can say will change his opinions. He has nothing new to contribute to your facts or insights.

    Not unlike both of you.

    Perhaps when I actually see some convincing “facts or insights,” you’ll be able to convince me to consider them.

  • Crystal

    The CEO and board of directors actually make more than a state legislator. Therefore, again it is the energy company that is being the bully they give huge contributions to our state legislators so who do you think is actually running the show?

    My beef is actually with corporate greed.

  • Boeke

    27-Glenn, yes, Clavos is fixed in his course; there is nothing that will divert him. Skip over his comments: nothing you can say will change his opinions. He has nothing new to contribute to your facts or insights.

  • Clavos

    They are allowed to operate as a bully. Charging any rate they want in order for them to collect their outrageous bonuses at the end of the year.

    Actually, utilities are pretty tightly regulated in terms of their rates, so if you feel your rates are too high, your beef is with your state legislators.

  • crystal

    It is a shame if president Obama is going to cut funding for LIHEAP when they’re millions of people that can not afford the cost of basic needs in this country. The real problem here is the energy companies and those are the ones we should be frustrated with. In my area I do not have a choice when it comes to my energy provider thus making them a monopoly. They are allowed to operate as a bully. Charging any rate they want in order for them to collect their outrageous bonuses at the end of the year. The energy companies are the ones that are benefiting from programs such as LIHEAP. Shouldn’t we be pushing the president to force them to lower their rates instead of collecting tax payer money through government subsidies such as LIHEAP?

    [Personal contact info deleted]

  • Baronius

    I assume that the administration made that cut as a dare. You see this a lot when state governments face a budget crisis and the first thing anyone mentions is police and firemen. That’s their way of personalizing the issue for the voters. “I don’t want my police department cut! We need to pay them more!” If the state government announced that budget restrictions were forcing them to cut the university system’s gardening staff, no one would be awfully upset.

    So if everyone’s playing a game, the Republicans’ best move would be to prepare a budget with each program at the levels they’d want, and set the LIHEAP budget at exactly the President’s recommended level. Then let the Senate take care of it.

  • Big T.

    Glad this thread stayed on topic. 😉
    But hey, Obama wants everyone to pay outrageous prices for his energy in order to force everyone to be greener. No surprise there.

  • Baronius

    Chris (#19) – I didn’t say I panicked. I was around here during the Big Renovation of 1954 or whenever that was, so I’m not shocked by a BC system crash.

  • Clavos

    Excellent diatribe, Glenn — one of your best!

    But I was referring to Chris, not you…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Yeah, I may be naive sometimes…but the difference between thee and me is that I realize that I can be wrong, I’m not afraid of questioning my own beliefs, and I see no shame in admitting when I’m wrong.

    You, on the other hand, do not question what you believe even when presented with strong evidence showing your error. Instead, you dig in your heels ever deeper to try to throw doubt on the evidence no matter how strong that evidence may be. You’ve done it with climate change, with demographic data, with history, and with economic data.

    That’s why I changed from conservative to liberal…and that’s why you remained conservative.

  • Dan, because comments weren’t disabled temporarily, the tech department boobed, comments were broken not disabled and there was no way to do anything until they fixed it. As the problem kicked in at 1043 pm, it couldn’t be resolved until the following day, which it was.

  • re #19 — Might the time of those who comment here have been saved if a notice had appeared in a conspicuous place on the site that comments had been disabled temporarily and that the problem would soon be solved?

    Why not avoid unnecessary frustration and wasted time?


  • Oh, Clavvy, that is so 1980s!

    Haven’t you heard, optimism is the new cynicism!

  • Clavos

    I, of course, disagree, Señor.

  • True enough, Sir Clavos, but better that than cynical…

  • Clavos

    Chris @#19,

    Sometimes (not often) you can be really unrealistic and naive…:-)

  • Zozobra


  • Baronius and Glenn/Lynn could have remained calm and contacted somebody rather than leaping to assumptions…

  • Clavos

    No one is in control of Politics — It’s outta control…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Rog –

    It was me using a different name since it seemed that I couldn’t post using my normal name.

  • Your best post ever, Lynn. But since you’re not a novice, I can’t understand the surprise let alone shock.

  • Lynn DifferentView

    Y’know, with all the off-the-wall bovine excrement that I’ve seen over the past three or four years on here, I don’t feel bad about having having the occasional eccentricity of my own. Unlike IBM’s Watson, I’m quite human, so if I make a frankly stupid assumption every now and then, again, I don’t feel too bad.

    And again, Baronius’ statement applies: The first time you encounter the blocked message page with its “we don’t like this message or we don’t like you” can be pretty jarring.

  • He’s a wild knucklerballer then, and far from beneath throwing a spitball.

  • El Bicho

    that’s so far off course, it’s more like a wild pitch into the stands

  • Glenn has a knack for throwing curveballs, even when he’s doing his own catching.

  • El Bicho

    wait so Lynn is Glenn? That makes his reasoning even more bizarre:

    “I guess I have to bear in mind that those in charge of the Politics section of this site are not eager to have the dirty laundry of conservatives hung out for all to see.”

    With all Glenn and others have written about conservatives on this site, I am baffled that this is the scenario he came up with.

  • Baronius

    Glenn – I spent about fifteen minutes trying to figure out why the word “Murkowski” was setting off alarms.

  • Perhaps you ought to try to be less concerned with what others think, “Lynn Different View,” and those thought won’t come to mind.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Chris –

    Perhaps El B was right – maybe I was being self-absorbed and jumping to conclusions…but Baronius is also right in that when one sees the “we don’t like this message or we don’t like you” message even when the word “text” is the entirety of the message, well, yeah – certain thoughts do come to mind.

  • Lynn, if you were banned from commenting here, how would you have been able to make the comment you did?

    In terms of what is published here, nobody is in control of the politics section, so your second point is, actually I’ve run out of words, so I’ll settle for incorrect.

  • Baronius

    Now that the site’s working, let me point out my problem with this article. According to the recently released 2010 ACU ratings, Murkowski was the 36th most conservative senator out of 42 Republicans. The Maine twins were tied at #39. It’s unfair to depict them as even being in the center of their party, much less as being typical conservatives.

  • Baronius

    EL B – Go easy on her. The first time you encounter the blocked message page with its “we don’t like this message or we don’t like you” can be pretty jarring.

  • El Bicho

    wow, Lynn, self-absorbed much? the site has a major technical issue and no one has the ability to comment yet somehow it’s all about you. That’s the most interesting aspect

  • Interesting idea, Christopher Rose shutting the site down because of Alan’s satire.

  • Clavos

    Not to worry, Lynn, you haven’t been banned; we’ve had problems with comments not posting pretty much all day. The tech folks are aware of the problem and are feverishly working on it — stand by.

  • Lynn DifferentView

    Off topic – apologies.

    Isn’t that interesting! Apparently I’ve been banned from commenting on BC – no notification, no e-mail, no warning. I’ve given absolutely zero insults in the years I’ve posted here, and I’ve used no cusswords that we don’t already hear on prime-time television…

    …but I guess I have to bear in mind that those in charge of the Politics section of this site are not eager to have the dirty laundry of conservatives hung out for all to see.

    Very interesting indeed. It puts in a whole new light the applause Ann Coulter received at CPAC when she said that more reporters should be jailed.