With $10 trillion in tax cuts for the rich, Paul Ryan's latest budget proposal is his most cruel and cynical yet.
How low can he go?
I hope the Occupy Wall Street movement is poring over the most cynical and irresponsible budget proposal yet to come from House Republican leaders and is ready with outrage.
Remember the old Peanuts cartoons where Lucy told Charlie Brown to kick the football, promising not to yank it? No matter how many times she promised, she’d still yank the ball away at the last moment. The reader always wondered when he would stop believing her.
Now do you remember last summer’s hard-fought debt-reduction agreement, the Budget Control Act of 2011? It’s the one that kept the nation from going into default by extending the debt ceiling. The deal created the 12-member supercommittee charged with reducing the deficit, adding a pistol to the head that if the supercommittee failed to achieve required budget reductions over 10 years, automatic cuts would kick in in January of 2013 across all parts of government, including defense.
But you wouldn’t know it by the Fiscal Year 2013 budget that was approved last week by the House Budget Committee, chaired by Janesville’s Paul Ryan. The proposed budget includes extreme and ideological cuts to non-defense spending, especially programs that serve low-income Americans, while increasing defense spending well above limits agreed to in last summer’s act. Further, the bill proposes more lopsided tax cuts for wealthy Americans.
Robert Greenstein, president of the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, says the Ryan budget “would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).”
What does Ryan cut? The center’s analysts say that 62 percent of his proposed cuts would come from programs serving low-income people. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the highest number of Americans in poverty — more than 46 million — in its history of documenting poverty, and Ryan cuts Medicaid by over $800 billion over 10 years, estimated to result in 14 million to 27 million poor people being uninsured or underinsured over that period.
At a time when one in seven households has difficulty providing enough food — also the highest number yet recorded — Ryan’s budget would cut food stamps by an estimated $134 billion. Ignoring high unemployment, it would cut $166 billion from training and education programs, especially Pell Grants, which allow low-income students to attend college.
While Ryan’s budget cuts low-income programs beyond the severe cuts imposed by last year’s Budget Control Act, it actually goes the other way on defense, cutting $200 billion less over 10 years than the act requires.
And to make it perfectly clear who is calling the shots in this budget, Ryan not only would permanently enshrine the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which would cost $5.4 trillion over the next decade, it actually adds four new major tax cuts for wealthy Americans, worth $4.6 trillion more! Clearly this budget isn’t really about deficit reduction.
Aside from its reneging, Lucy-like, on the bipartisan, hard-fought, legally binding Budget Control Act, what’s most disturbing is this budget’s cynical assumption that something so completely destabilizing to American society could actually gain popular support.
Without assuming a major brainwashing of the American public, why would Republican leaders advance such a punishingly bad budget? Do their pollsters tell them that poor and middle class people won’t be voting? Won’t be informed? Won’t get activated?
Ryan’s budget dramatically favors the 1 percent over the 99 percent. It should be a call to action for the Occupy movement — and for the rest of reasonable America, Republican and otherwise, against the polarizing tactics of the House’s extreme right leadership.
(A version of this article originally appeared in the opinion section of the Capital Times.)
March 29, 2012
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Margaret Krome lives in Madison and writes columns for the Capital Times.