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Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The Ryan Budget Shows What Republicans Want To Do To America

Sometimes a budget is a moral document. Sometimes it’s a threat. With the passage of Rep. Paul Ryan’s latest austerian budget, the GOP is once again spelling out very clearly what they want to do to America. It’s not a threat, but a promise that Americans must make sure Republicans never have the power to fulfill.

Last week, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) thanked House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan for his latest budget. “Thank you,” Durbin wrote, “thank you Congressman Paul Ryan, for reminding us what Republicans would do if they had control.”

Maybe it’s time to thank House Republicans for passing another budget that will go nowhere in the Senate and will never bear President Obama’s signature, but spells out exactly what Republicans will do the moment they have the power.

Not that they said as much during the debate over the Ryan budget. Over the last two days, Republicans resorted to a rhetorical trick unworthy of a second-rate high school debate team. “Only in Washington,” they said over and over again, “is a spending increase called a cut,” because the budget increase federal spending at a slower rate.

Only in the Republican mind is a reduction in spending not a cut. Whether you call it a $5.1 trillion spending reduction or $5.1 trillion in cuts, that’s how much less the government would spend under the Ryan budget. Most of those cuts — 69 percent — come from programs that serve low- and mid-income Americans.

The Ryan/GOP budget repeals Obamacare. This alone should get it laughed right out of Washington as a non-starter. Never mind that this would take health care coverage away from millions of Americans, with no GOP alternative to replace it. The chances of the Republicans wining majorities in the House and Senate big enough to pass a repeal, and override the inevitable presidential veto, are so slim that it’s a waste of ink to even include repeal in a budget.

The Ryan/GOP budget cuts welfare programs by $5.4 billion over 10 years. It slashes agricultural programs by $23 billion, and turns SNAP into a block grant — slashing funds and handing what’s left to states with a no-strings-attached guarantee of “flexibility.” If state governments reduce food stamp recipient numbers, they may do as they see fit with the overrun.

The Ryan/GOP even cuts the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which Ryan says is being “abused.” Could it be that Ryan is as outraged as Fox News anchor Stuart Varney that states are continuing to help the poor feed themselves by tying food stamp eligibility to home heating assistance, making more low-income families eligible for food stamps? Is formulating an end run around Republican cuts to food stamps and continuing to feed the poor “abuse”? It is, if you’re a Republican.

The Ryan Budget destroys Medicaid by turning it into block grant. Indexing it to inflation and population growth means steep cuts, because health care costs are rising faster than inflation. States will have fewer and fewer resources for their Medicaid programs, and will take steps to slash their caseloads.

The Ryan/GOP budget obliterates Medicare by turning it into a voucher program. Republicans swear that it’s “premium support,” not a voucher. But instead of the longstanding Medicare guarantee, the elderly will receive government subsidies to purchase private health insurance. If health care costs continue to rise faster than the general inflation rate, the “premium support” won’t keep pace, and the costs will be shifted to the elderly.

They Ryan/GOP budget harms young Americans by cutting financial assistance, and increasing student debt. Pell grants come in for a cut through a maximum eligibility cap, and ending funding for less than half-time students. In addition, young people would have to start paying interest on their student loans while they are still in school.

The Ryan/GOP budget paves the way for another financial crisis. Cuts to the Securities and Exchange Commission budget means fewer regulators policing the financial sector. The budget transfers the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau budget from the Federal Reserve to Congress, where inevitable cuts and partisan obstruction will mean less protection for financial consumers. Restricting the ability of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) will probably increase the likelihood of more taxpayer bailouts of big banks.

The Ryan/GOP budget increases military spending. Actually, military spending is the one area where the Ryan/GOP budget spends big, with a $483 billion increase.

The Ryan GOP budget cuts taxes on the wealthy. All these cuts go to pay for mystifying tax breaks for the wealthy. The budget reduces the top taxes rates by replacing them with two brackets of 10 percent and 25 percent, and give millionaires a $265,000-a-year tax break, at a cost of $6 trillion in lost revenue — which Ryan assumes will be made up, because his cuts will stimulate so much economic growth that tax revenues skyrocket.

To hear House Republicans tell it over the last couple of days, these cuts will hardly be felt. Americans know better. That’s why the majority of Americans have repeatedly rejected the GOP’s austerian agenda again and again.

The Ryan/GOP budget goes against what Americans want, on issue after issue. But Republicans will try to make sure it’s what we get if they get half a chance. Today’s vote on the Ryan Budget was just our annual reminder.

Terrance Heath

Terrance Heath

Terrance Heath works at The Solidarity Center, a non-profit organization that works with unions, NGOs and community groups worldwide to advance worker rights and promote broad-based, sustainable economic development. He is the former Online Producer at Campaign for America's Future.

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