Bad Policy, Bad Politics

Paul Ryan’s reverse-Robin Hood budget will hurt people – starting with the GOP.

Paul Ryan Cartoons 19

By April 11, 2014One comment SHARE–USNews & World Report Thomas Jefferson Street Blog

By a vote of 219-205 yesterday the Republicans rammed through their “reverse-Robin Hood” budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

For the next decade, the Republicans basically propose taking from the middle class and the poor and giving to the wealthy. This is a crass and clear class warfare tactic coming from the Republicans in the House. By cutting $5.1 trillion in education, health care, help for seniors, food assistance for the poor and proposing huge tax breaks for the super wealthy, the Ryan budget upends not only our economy, but our society and our values.

It basically holds that we are over-spending on our kids, our elderly, our families. It is what many would call the ultimate selfish budget plan. According to Brookings, if you are in the top 1 percent of wage earners (over $633,000) the Ryan plan would cut taxes in half. If you are among the 75 percent of Americans making between $20,000 and $200,000 you likely would be facing a tax increase.

[Read blogger Leslie Marshall on how Ryan’s budget fails to plan for infrastructure.]

Instead of creating a tax system that is fair and strives to close loopholes, the Ryan plan actually makes the current system worse. So, there is only one way the Republicans work towards a balanced budget: more cuts in essential programs for people.

Money for nutrition programs for poor people would be cut by $125 billion over five years; funds for education would be cut by $145 billion over 10 years; $90 billion would be cut from Pell Grants for college students; interest would be charged on student loans during school that would cost students $40 billion. The Affordable Care Act, which now is helping insure 7.5 million new sign-ups as well as 3 million on their parents plans and 5 million on Medicaid, would be scrapped. Medicare would be a voucher program and privatized.

This budget is an effort to take America away from investing in education, infrastructure, growth and prosperity. Instead, it is a document out of the usual Republican playbook of “it’s your money, you can keep it” which ignores our responsibilities as a society to one another and to a flourishing economy. No one denies that living within our means is critical; the key is a balance between revenue and expenditures. To many Republicans, there is no give on the revenue side, except to lower the taxes for the wealthy.

[Read blogger Carrie Wofford on how Ryan’s budget guts domestic spending.]

It is bad policy, but I believe it is also bad politics.

The Democrats should not hesitate to debate this budget, these priorities, not just on the basis of fairness, but because they won’t work and are harmful to the country. This is not only a reverse-Robin Hood budget but it is also anticompetitive and upends a society that needs more focus on education, not less, a society that needs more job training, not less, a society that needs more money devoted to infrastructure and mass transit, not less. The list goes on and on.

If the goal is more homeless on the streets, more families in poverty, greater numbers incarcerated, more people in emergency rooms causing health care costs to skyrocket, the Ryan budget could be called a success. But that is not the outcome anyone wants.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Democrats should argue that this is an extreme budget, not a balanced one, that it will harm the middle class and working families. It is time for Democrats to engage in a debate that will match the old Republican rhetoric with realistic policies: leave no child behind, clear the skies, protect Social Security and Medicare. Were these just words for the Republicans or were they accompanied with plans that are truly pragmatic?

Sadly, the Ryan budget does nothing to encourage me that they are committed to Head Start and preschool education, affordable college for our kids, creating good paying jobs, attacking the serious problems from climate change, keeping a true safety net or improving our health care system.

This is a backward budget not a forward-looking budget and Democrats should take it on with full force.