The United States House of Representatives Budget Committee got a budget bill this week and passed it within 24 hours, without even reading the bill. While Chairman Ryan spoke in soothing tones about “the path to prosperity,” the bill upset so many Republicans and Democrats that it barely squeaked through the committee. Congressman Frank Guinta cast the deciding vote, which was 19-18, because, as he said, he helped craft it. When a Republican bill barely gets through a majority Republican Committee like this, it is probably doomed, as it should be.
Why will this budget bill die on the floor of the House? Because, unless your name ends in Inc. (Incorporated), or you are a millionaire, this bill is not for you, and Republicans know it will be too hard to sell to a very skeptical public.
What are the problems with the bill? To start with, Americans do not like the changes to Medicare in this budget. The budget pushes seniors into vouchers, or what Ryan euphemistically calls “premium support.” Seniors could use the vouchers to buy their own insurance with a private company, or they could stay in Medicare, but either way, when the amount of the voucher runs out, an individual’s wallet comes out, and it would be extremely expensive. The vouchers would not reflect the rising cost of health care, because while health care costs are expected to rise around 7% per year, Medicare spending would be kept at the CPI plus 0.5%. Also, if people are in a lot of different plans, Medicare would lose its ability to control costs and to negotiate better deals for seniors and other taxpayers, and that would push costs up as well.
No wonder presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, in an unguarded moment, called this plan “right-wing social engineering.” After being clubbed by the even further right-wing branch of his party, Gingrich was forced to embrace this disastrous plan, but his first analysis was dead-on, and Americans need to pay close attention if they want their loved ones or themselves to get full medical coverage when they are old or disabled.
If you are trying to pay the bills, you might not appreciate the fact that the wealthy and corporations will get bigger breaks than they already receive. This budget cuts taxes by roughly $3 trillion dollars, but most of those tax cuts would go to higher income earners. All of the Bush tax cuts would become permanent cuts, and there would be just two brackets, 10% and 25%. The top corporate income tax would fall from 35% to 25%. (Remember, 2/3 of US corporations actually pay zero.) And to top off awful ideas with another awful idea, Republicans want to end US taxes on any corporate money earned abroad, which could lead to a rush of jobs headed overseas.
So, if we cut taxes by $3 trillion dollars, and we have no new revenue, what happens? While Congressman Ryan and his followers are not saying exactly what they will cut for the most part, we can all figure out that the middle class and the poor will be out of luck if they cannot find members of Congress who will fight for them. Luckily, Democrats and some Republicans are going to defeat this budget.
They know that cutting money for education, from Head Start through college, is an assault on the poor and the middle class. It also would hurt business, because businesses require a labor pool of well-educated people in order to successfully compete. As Dr. Jill Biden says, the country that out-educates us will out-compete us. This budget would cut our research in science and technology at exactly the time when we need to step up our investments. Congressman Ryan has us spending 6% less on “general science, space, and basic technology.” Why? So we can give more tax breaks to oil companies? The world will not stand still, even if we do.
Transportation, nutrition programs, health care, research, environment…all these and more will have to be cut if the Paul Ryan plan becomes law. Thankfully, it won’t. But what are Representatives Ryan and Guinta thinking? In this time of high deficits, why would they cut taxes for the rich and US and multinational corporations? Why would they put forward a budget that would require massive cuts in the very areas that require our investment? The Budget Committee owes America an answer.
Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represented New Hampshire’s First District from 2007-2011, she is seeking a third term in the November, 2012 election. She wrote the proposal for and established a non-profit, social service agency, which continues to serve all ages. She taught politics and history and is a strong supporter of Medicare and Social Security.