By Walter Brasch
In 2011, before he was the Republican nominee for vice-president, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) proposed a federal budget. He called it, "The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise."
Two years later, now in his second year as chair of the House budget committee, he dusted off and polished his old proposal. He calls this one: "The Path to Prosperity: A Responsible Balanced Budget." His plan is to cut the federal deficit by $4.6 trillion in four years, reducing the deficit to about $12.1 trillion.
While the Republicans blame President Obama and the Democrats for wild tax-and-spend policies that led to the huge deficit, they conveniently overlook the reality that Bill Clinton left George W. Bush a budget surplus of about $230 billion. By the time President Bush completed his eight years, there was no longer a balanced budget, and the deficit soared another $5 trillion.
Much of the additional deficit created under President Obama was a result of being forced to continue many of the Bush policies that included massive tax cuts and the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that cost more than $1.4 trillion and are expected to cost Americans $600 billion–$1 trillion over the next three decades to provide health care and disability benefits for combat soldiers.
President Obama’s stimulus plan was a largely successful program to bring the nation out of a corporate-created, government-neglected Recession that was greater than anything since the 1929 stock market crash that led to the great Depression. This year, because of Obama policies, the stock market is at a record high, and the unemployment rate is now below 8 percent and dropping, with almost all states having lower unemployment rates than a year ago.
It’s been four years since President Bush left office, and the Congressional Republicans who fully embraced the Bush–Cheney policies still haven’t learned anything.
If you’re living comfortably in your upper class lifestyle, you’re going to love Ryan’s proposed budget.
The budget eliminates the graduated income tax—that’s the one with several brackets, increasing the tax upon those with more money. Under this budget proposal, there will be only two brackets—10 percent and 25 percent. The top rate of 39.6 percent, which multi-millionaires pay, is cut to the 25 percent level.
But if you’re among the rest of us, Paul Ryan’s proposal, endorsed enthusiastically by the Congressional Republicans and their Tea party base, is a disaster.
Under the cover of saying he’s going to balance the budget, Ryan cuts retirement and health benefits for veterans and federal employees. He cuts disaster relief, and the federal role in education and scientific research. He cuts funding for the nation’s infrastructure, leaving our already-neglected highways and bridges to undergo even more deterioration.
He cuts Medicare costs by issuing vouchers—individuals would receive a set amount to buy retirement benefits. This, of course, is on every insurance goliath’s wish list.
While keeping more than $40 billion in corporate subsidies, Paul Ryan cuts Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment insurance, mostly by having the federal government issue block grants to the states so they can take care of the poor. Thus, we are likely to have 50 separate programs instead of one—with the expected consequence of the poor and disadvantaged moving from state to state to find jobs and better programs.
He cuts more than $1.8 trillion from the Affordable Health Care Act that passed both houses of Congress and was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. The Republicans have brought more than 30 bills to gut the Act; they lost every time. Ryan’s proposal is the political end run that, if successful, would eliminate critical and necessary health care, while shoving more than 30 million Americans, mostly low-income and the middle-class, back into the unprotected category. Of course, every member of Congress and their staffs have premium health coverage and retirement benefits.
Ryan’s budget, which has the Republicans salivating, would be the lowest in six decades. This doesn’t even take into account there has been significant inflation the past six decades, or that Medicare, Medicaid, NASA, WIC (the women, infant, children nutritional program) and numerous other programs to benefit all Americans didn’t exist six decades ago.
What Ryan’s budget doesn’t include is as much an indication of his hatred for the lower- and middle-classes, and his pandering to the nation’s Luxury Class and corporate monoliths. Unlike the proposed Democrats’ budget, Ryan’s budget doesn’t include closing significant tax loopholes used mostly by the wealthy. That means they can continue to employ an army of accountants and lawyers to find innumerable ways to avoid taxes. And, like Mitt Romney, the wealthy can still hide money in foreign countries and avoid U.S. taxes. The Democrats’ budget raises $1 trillion in revenue by cutting those loopholes.
The Ryan budget also has only minimal and largely cosmetic cuts in military spending. But, in an ironic twist, the Pentagon’s highest officials, both civilian and military, have criticized Congress for keeping certain programs the military believe is wasteful or unproductive—but favored for political reasons by members of Congress.
Although Ryan has a degree in economics, his proposed budget, says Senate majority leader Harry Reid, can not be balanced because it "relies on accounting that’s creative at best and fraudulent at worst."
The American people broadly rejected Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in 2010. They need to now reject his so-called new budget that proves the Republicans are nothing more than the lackeys of corporate greed at the expense of the rest of us.
[Walter Brasch is an award-winning columnist and author of 17 books. His latest is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth look at the social, environmental, health, and political issues of the controversial method to extract natural gas. The book is available from www.greeleyandstone.com,amazon.com, and brick-and-mortar bookstores.]