How Budget Cuts Continue to Make Us Sicker, Poorer and Less Secure


In Washington, lawmakers and wonks think about budgets in terms of numbers, dollar signs, and decimal points. But beyond the Beltway, there are faces behind the numbers. Even seemingly “small” changes in federal spending can have a big impact on Americans who rely upon and benefit from federally funded programs.

In many ways, the true impact of austerity has been masked behind the numbers. You have to talk to Americans, face-to-face, if you really want to understand the effects of budget cuts. In our first report, Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Make Us Sicker, Poorer, and Less Secure, we told the stories of those who had been impacted most by Washington’s failure to preserve the programs that keep us all healthy, safe, and educated.

Faces of Austerity 2.0: How Budget Cuts Continue to Make Us Sicker, Poorer, and Less Secure tells the stories of 10 individuals and communities that continue to suffer austerity’s impact across nondefense sectors—education, job training, public health, safety and security, housing, childcare, nutrition, and natural resources.

When properly funded, these programs work. While these stories highlight how cuts hurt individuals in both rural and urban communities, they also demonstrate the strengths of federally funded programs when funding allows them to fulfill their missions. They contribute to local economic growth, prepare students and workers for careers, keep communities safe from a variety of threats, prepare rural and urban communities for disasters, and help our most vulnerable gain access to the resources they need to thrive in the American economy.
The cuts are unsustainable. Since our 2013 report, funding for nondefense programs continues to erode, resulting in fewer Americans served despite a growing need for these programs. In almost every story, cuts and flat funding for multiple government agencies have affected the ability for state and local government and organizations to prepare Americans for 21st Century jobs, keep them safe and healthy in their communities, and help them care for their families while striving to realize the American dream.
The cuts lead to additional costs for taxpayers and strain state and local budgets. Many of the federal funding cuts highlighted in this report support state and local governments in their efforts to build safe, strong communities and provide the infrastructure that bolsters the American economy. When budgets at the federal level are cut or even flat funded, state and local governments must make up the difference by raising taxes or cutting services. Unfortunately, as featured throughout the report, cutting services often saves money in the short-term but leads to even greater costs down the line.
This report will provide much need context for ongoing budget discussions. We hope Congress and the White House will remember the faces from this report—and the faces of millions of Americans not featured here—as they work together to balance the federal budget in a more balanced and responsible way.