Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) says he spent the past year working on anti-poverty proposals he plans to unveil in the future, now that House Republicans have passed his latest budget resolution.
Ryan’s budget would cut spending on current anti-poverty programs by $3.5 trillion over the next decade. Just imagine how much he could gut them if he spent two whole years trying to solve the nation’s poverty problems.
Unfortunately, Mitt Romney’s former running mate started his budget work with a misconception: Ryan equates the federal government’s efforts to wipe out poverty with getting rid of poor people. Congressman, it doesn’t work that way. Yes, you can effectively reduce the number of people in poverty by cutting off assistance to them, but it doesn’t count if they die in the process.
Republicans are supposed to give the poor what they need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps (if they can afford boots) – things like better educational opportunities, affordable medical care, and protection from those in society who seek to do them harm.
Let’s see how well Ryan’s budget does in those areas in Wyoming, which has been analyzed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The CBPP estimates the House Republicans’ budget created by Ryan would cause 6,150 seniors in Wyoming to have to pay more for their medicine, because it would bring back the prescription drug donut hole.
It would hurt people at both ends of the educational system. In Wyoming, 300 children would lose access to Head Start. Meanwhile, 950 college students wouldn’t receive the Pell Grants they now qualify for in the state.
One hundred and thirty-two women in the Equality State would lose access to the STOP Violence Against Women Program. But this is in line with the votes Wyoming’s two Republican U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso cast against the Violence Against Women Act last year. They wound up on the losing side of that battle, but this would ensure that at least a portion of their message to battered women – that they should be able to go it alone without the government’s help – is enacted.
Millionaires, of course, would benefit a lot from what Ryan has in store for them; after all, they are the job creators. A total of 673 millionaires in Wyoming would each receive $87,000 in tax cuts. The majority of people in poverty may not see why tax breaks for the wealthy need to come at their expense, but Republicans will just have to forgive them: They obviously haven’t paid attention whenever the GOP has had a chance to exercise its power over the needy.
Ryan’s budget resolution passed the House, 219-205. All Democrats in the chamber voted against it, and they were joined by a dozen Republicans. His proposal was dead on arrival in the Senate, which doesn’t plan to even consider it. At least people will know what he thinks of the poor, since 69 percent of the cuts he made were to low-income programs. That’s up 3 percent from last year.
In contrast, the poor came away looking pretty good under the “Better Off Budget” crafted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). Its budget would help reduce the number of poor people by creating an estimated 8.8 million jobs by 2017, instead of killing them off.
The CPC also calls for investments in education, health care, housing and nutrition. These would be paid for by closing tax loopholes that enable corporations to hide their profits offshore. Instead of paying a tax rate below what many middle-class citizens do, people who make a lot of money would have to pay a higher rate.
There are other major differences to the CPC budget that won’t be found in Ryan’s version. Instead of repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the progressives’ budget would preserve and improve the law while also protecting Medicare and Medicaid.
Money cut from the SNAP (food stamp) program would be restored, and the long-term jobless would see federal emergency unemployment funds approved. Jobs and training programs would be expanded to put more people to work and boost the national economy, while responsible cuts to Pentagon spending would be identified.
This budget, too, was a dream for its authors, who saw it defeated in the House, 89-327. Democrats, naturally, cast all of the votes for approval.
Both budget proposals, and several more, were just exercises in making the priorities for the two major political parties – plus their various left- and right-wings – better known to the public.
The poor may think they have a few beefs to pick with Ryan over his proposed cuts to social services, but the Wisconsin congressman couldn’t come close to matching the most radical elements of the “Back to Basic” budget offered by the conservative Republican Study Committee.
If it had its way, this GOP panel would include new work requirements to SNAP/food stamps and require restrictions to programs for the disabled. Ryan probably didn’t even consider that last one. But give him some more time to work on his next budget, and we have no doubt he’ll come through for the poor in even grander style, especially seniors, the malnourished and people with disabilities.