Mark Trahant: Budget for Indian programs mostly a lost cause

"The coming year’s proposed federal budget is a lost cause. Mostly. The budget that will finally emerge from Congress is going to be ugly. A zealous sense of frugality will consume most federal Indian programs, agencies that serve rural communities, and many others that serve important constituent groups in the United States.

At their best: Budgets reflect priorities. They identify the choices ahead and quantify what’s important to a society. So what does the United States care about in its budget messages, both from the president and from the Congress?

At the top of the list, the single most important priority, is the promises made to those older than 65 years. Neither the president nor Congress is suggesting any major -- or even minor -- changes to the entitlements found in Medicare and Medicaid. (Not yet, anyway.)

But if Medicaid and Medicare represent the promises made to our elders, what about the other promises that were so solemnly made?

Well, here is one good piece of news: the president’s budget protects the Indian health system. “The FY 2012 Budget requests $5.7 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS), an increase of $589 million over FY 2010."

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