The latest House Republican budget plan asks low-income and middle-class Americans to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while simultaneously delivering massive tax breaks to the richest 1 percent and preserving huge giveaways to Big Oil. It’s a recipe for repeating the mistakes of the Bush administration, during which middle-class incomes stagnated and only the privileged few enjoyed enormous gains.
Each component of the new House Republican budget threatens the middle class while doing nothing to add jobs or grow our economy. It ends the guarantee of decent insurance for senior citizens, breaking Medicare’s bedrock promise. It slashes investments in education, infrastructure, and basic research, all of which are key drivers of economic growth and mobility. And it cuts taxes for those at the top, asking the middle class to pick up the tab. It’s a budget designed to benefit the top 1 percent at everyone else’s expense.
The economy, while showing signs of progress in the past few months, is still very shaky. Millions of Americans are teetering on the edge, and the last thing we should do at a time like this is pull the rug out from underneath them. While skimpy on specific details, upon reading the fiscal year 2013 House budget proposal released yesterday, you will find that once again, the middle class comes up short—and communities of color end up bearing the brunt of the pain.
Communities of color have been hit hardest by this recession. Unemployment levels in the African American community, while slowly improving, are still almost double that of whites, and the Hispanic unemployment rate is also unacceptably high. What these communities need is a budget that promotes job growth at home. Unfortunately for them, the House plan does nothing to actually promote job growth for the middle class. Included instead are incentives for companies to move their jobs overseas and cuts to programs such as Pell Grants, K–12 education, and job training.
On health care, the House budget once again proposes major changes to the Medicaid system. By block-granting funds to the states, the House budget would effectively transfer the entire burden of caring for those in need to already cash-strapped states, forcing them to make tough budget decisions—often slashing benefits or raising taxes. This move especially hurts communities of color. In 2010 57 percent of people on Medicaid were people of color, and 45 percent of the children covered under Medicaid are children of color.
On Medicare a CAP analysis shows that the House budget plan would effectively end Medicare as we know it and dismantle the safety net with the drastic Medicaid changes proposed. For seniors of color this is especially troubling. In 2010, 23 percent of seniors of color relied on Medicare as their only source of health care coverage. Under the House plan, tens of thousands of seniors could lose their coverage in the next 10 years, and most of the remaining beneficiaries would see their premiums increase.
The House budget will also drastically cut programs proven to close education disparities between whites and communities of color such as Head Start. According to the 2005 Biennial Report to Congress published by the Office of Head Start, 65 percent of Head Start students are children of color.
Finally, the debt deal cut last year, while avoiding a government shutdown, had some negative impacts on communities of color. When President Barack Obama released his 2013 budget proposal, he for the most part adhered to the spending levels enacted. The House budget proposed yesterday reneges on that deal, though, which will once again cause more harm to the most vulnerable communities. That’s because, while crucial programs benefiting communities of color will face the chopping block, the wealthiest Americans and corporations will enjoy a $3 trillion giveaway.
This budget has little-to-no chance of passing, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is aware of that. This is a messaging tool to let the base know House Republican priorities. The message is received, loud and clear: Take care of the 1 percent at the expense of everyone else. Once again the House is asking middle-class and low-income Americans to make the sacrifices, while asking nothing of the 1 percent. And caught up in the fray are communities of color.
Daniella Gibbs Leger is Vice President for American Values and New Communities at the Center for American Progress.