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Editorial: The Ryan budget is a sham

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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This past weekend, Wisconsin Republican Representative and 2012 vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan made a stop in Cedar Rapids to give an address at the GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner. Ryan went about his usual spiel, criticizing the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act, “Big Government,” and Republican in-fighting between its ultra-conservative wing and its arch-conservative wing.

What was more interesting, however, than this garden-variety partisan pabulum was that, prior to his arrival in Iowa, the House of Representatives in a party-line vote passed Ryan’s controversial budget plan “The Path to Prosperity,” which purports to balance the federal budget over the course of 10 years.

Upon close examination, however, we believe that the “Path to Prosperity” represents a revanchist attempt to dismantle the American welfare state and social contract and transfer a vast majority of wealth from the nation’s most vulnerable citizens to its most privileged.

To begin, the budget repeals the Affordable Care Act, a reckless move that would leave the 7.5 million Americans (so far) who were able to receive health insurance through the act out in the cold and jettison popular and necessary health-care reforms such as banning discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, closing the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole,” and the mostly functioning health-care exchanges.

Even more pernicious is the budget’s full-scale assault on Medicaid and food stamps. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the “Path to Prosperity” would gut $2.8 trillion in federal health spending and $135 billion from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps). These cuts essentially leave large swathes of poor Americans without ready access to basic health care and food needs.

At the same time, Ryan intends to slash $125 million from Pell Grants, cutting off higher education to low-income students. Approximately $700 billion would be cut from Medicare. And there’s also an unspecified $500 billion in cuts to mandatory programs other than Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and food stamps.

While services essential to low-income Americans are immolated, programs affecting the military, the wealthy, and the (affluent) elderly are left largely intact. Social Security and defense aren’t touched. Even more egregious, the top tax rate will be reduced to 25 percent while eliminating programs for lower middle-class/working class Americans.

All of this moral and economic degradation is being carried out in the name of bolstering a weak economy. However, this justifications simply doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny.

Joshua Smith at the Economic Policy Institute notes the deleterious effect the budget would have on the economy, noting that “the House budget resolution would decrease GDP by 0.9 percent and decrease nonfarm payrolls by 1.1 million jobs in fiscal year 2015, relative to CBO’s current-law baseline. The following fiscal year, when Ryan’s cuts to discretionary spending kick in, “The Path to Prosperity” would decrease GDP by 2.5 percent and cost 3.0 million jobs.”

With this sham justification debunked, it becomes entirely transparent what the “Path to Prosperity” is: a shameless attempt to dismantle the New Deal and the Great Society by effectively ending the federal government’s commitment to both improving the lives of poor Americans and just providing a base economic security that all Americans are entitled to. Paul Ryan and his party have made it very clear by endorsing these budget priorities that they hold the poor and the programs that benefit them in utter contempt. Any vote for this plan or the party and individuals that support it is a tragically irresponsible one.


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