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Ryan budget only cares for elite

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MARCH 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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America has been posed with a choice. As Republicans put it, a choice between competing "visions" of America. Nowhere are the two parties more diametrically opposed then when it comes to how to bring the budget into balance.

One vision cares for all people — the other, cares only for the elite.

In a recent effort to draw attention away from a series of controversial blunders, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the House Budget Committee chairman, released his fiscal 2013 budget.

Under this Republican plan, the burden of a balanced budget falls squarely on the poor, the elderly, and the disabled — an unacceptable action that would put many University of Iowa students and Iowa residents in peril.

Of the $5.3 trillion in cuts proposed by Ryan, nearly two-thirds, or $3.3 trillion, would come from programs that are largely designed to negate some of the worst consequences of poverty.

The budget would require a $134 billion cut in funding for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which provides food aid for low-income mothers, poor children, and low-income families. This would put at further risk the food security of the 13 percent of Iowans who go from paycheck to paycheck trying to feed themselves and their families.

Because the plan does not save the federal government any money on Medicare, individuals in the future would be required to save an additional $600,000 over their lifetime to afford the same level of care provided to current Medicare recipients.

When you consider more than 500,000 Iowans are on Medicare, this change could foreseeably drain $300 billion out of Iowa's economy as the next generation becomes eligible for Medicare. Alternatively, Iowa, as with most states, would experience precipitous increase in the number of uninsured, and or, underinsured elderly persons.

Then there is Medicaid, which is often derided as a welfare program that costs too much and affords benefits to the undeserving. This, however, is a largely notional understanding of the program that can only exist in a vacuum void of rational thought.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009, 6 percent of all Medicaid beneficiaries were persons over the age of 65. More than 14 percent were blind or disabled. Nearly half — 45 percent — were children, and another 8 percent were BCCA women. That means that at least 73 percent of all Medicaid beneficiaries are low-income children and mothers, the elderly, and the disabled.

The above information in tow, under the Ryan Budget, the CBO projected that 14 million to 27 million people could lose Medicaid coverage. In 2010, 63 million were enrolled in Medicare. If we assume that the loss of Medicaid coverage were experienced equally across states, approximately 150,000 poor, disabled, and elderly Iowans would lose medical coverage.

These programs were created to serve a finite purpose -— to curb the worst consequences of poverty and care for the elderly.

Without programs such as the nutrition plan, Medicare, and Medicaid, it is undeniable that the number of poor mothers, children, and families who do not have reliable access to food and medical care will increase.

The elderly would be forced to forgo seeking necessary medical care or to rely on family members to bare the burden of paying for those medical expenses — millions of children, disabled, and impoverished Americans would lose medical-insurance coverage outright.

This budget could leave Iowans desperate, injured, and hungry. It deserves to be publicly derided for its total disregard for the human costs it would impose. The United States needs to reach fiscal balance in the future, but doing so should not be done by requiring the most from those of us who have the least to give.


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