Mar 17, 2015
Revealing their commitment to ravaging critical safety net programs while accommodating corporations and the ultra-wealthy, the Republican-controlled House unveiled on Tuesday a budget proposal (pdf) that would undermine both Social Security and Medicare, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and prioritize tax cuts for the one percent--all while boosting defense spending.
The U.S. Senate, also majority Republican, is expected to introduce similar legislation on Wednesday.
According to news reports, the initial proposals, authored by House Budget Committee chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Senate Budget Committee chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), seek to balance the federal budget over 10 years, without raising taxes. To achieve those goals, the plans are expected to include $5 trillion in cuts to domestic programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, over the course of the next decade.
It would provide $90 billion in additional war funding--much more than the $51 billion proposed by President Barack Obama--while pushing cuts to renewable energy incentives and climate change programs and repealing parts of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
And, as Sahil Kapur writes for Talking Points Memo, "the budget sets the stage for a showdown next year on Social Security."
The New York Timesnotes that the proposal "leans heavily on the policy prescriptions that Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin outlined when he was budget chairman"--prescriptions that were blasted at the time as "a path to more adversity."
Price, like previous Budget Committee chairmen in both parties, is using his proposal to push an aggressive policy agenda that is far broader than a simple focus on spending and deficits. Like the Ryan budgets of previous years, Price sees government as the cause of economic problems in the country and seeks to rein in federal spending -- and power -- by shifting programs back to state control or eliminating them outright.
For instance, the Budget Committee notes that there are 92 different anti-poverty programs, 17 food aid programs and 22 housing assistance programs. Similar overlaps have been found in federal job-training progams, it says. Price recommends eliminating or reducing many of these programs. The maximum award under Pell grants would be frozen for a decade, helping slow the huge increases in college costs. Regulations required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial services reform law are also being targeted as needlessly burdensome on the financial services industry and slowing economic growth.
The austere budget plan drew immediate criticism from many corners.
"There should be no compromise from the Democratic minority on any of this," political analyst Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire. "It should be rejected, root and branch, because it is based on an economic philosophy, and an overall view of the relationship between people and their government, that has failed the country and its people savagely in the past and inevitably will do so again."
In his breakdown of intra-party budget battles, Dave Johnson of the Campaign for America's Future noted that despite any splits over specifics, the governing majority has one common desire.
"All of these Republican factions want the government cut back," Johnson wrote. "None of them care about investing in infrastructure, investing in science, investing in education, expanding health care and safety-net programs for people who need it, or otherwise helping the public."
Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress joined in calling on Congress to reject the proposal.
"Republicans are talking big with respect to tackling income inequality and wage stagnation, but the House budget proposal does not match their rhetoric," she said. "Rather than creating jobs with investments in infrastructure and education or strengthening health care and nutrition programs to give families a foothold to climb into the middle class, the House majority has once again prioritized big tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations."
In USA Today on Monday, journalist Nicole Gaudiano reported that Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who may run for president in 2016, plans to fight the GOP budget plan tooth and nail.
Sanders, she wrote, said he wants to take next year's budget resolution in a "radically different" direction from the one preferred by House and Senate Republicans, declaring: "I'm going to work as hard as I can with other progressive members of the Senate to do everything we can to make sure this budget is not balanced on the backs of working families and low-income Americans."
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