Opinion

Lita Pepion: Indian Country will suffer without fiscal cliff deal





"The fate of the Indian Health Service in Montana probably isn’t the foremost issue on the minds of budget negotiators in Washington working to avert the “fiscal cliff”: more than $600 billion in expiring tax cuts and across-the-board spending cuts slated for January. But as a health and fitness consultant and native of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, the future of the health service and many other programs important to Native and low-income people is never far from my consciousness.

The outcome of the current congressional deficit talks will have a big impact, good or bad, on the health and prosperity of Indian Country — indeed, of the whole country — and that’s why we should all be paying attention.

The first goal is to avoid these arbitrary budget cuts and most, but not all, of the tax increases that constitute this “fiscal cliff.” Those looming spending reductions range from 13 percent for Indian student education to 35 percent for low-income heating assistance. Vocational and policing grants would be cut by a quarter. The state of Montana and Montana’s Indian population would lose tens of millions of dollars in federal assistance.

This catastrophe can only be avoided if Democrats and Republicans agree on a long-range plan to reduce our national debt slowly, so as not to short circuit our economic recovery. But if that agreement is fashioned the wrong way, American Indians, and Americans in general, will still suffer needlessly."

Get the Story:
Lita Pepion: Indian Country will suffer if U.S. goes over fiscal cliff (The Billings Gazette 12/22)