Republicans in the House of Representatives today released a budget proposal that asks the middle class to bear the entire burden of deficit reduction while simultaneously giving away huge tax breaks for the rich. The plan is nearly identical to the budget plan put forth by the GOP presidential ticket of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) that voters rejected last fall for putting the screws to the middle class while exacerbating income inequality.
This year’s proposed House budget for fiscal year 2014 would undermine the nation’s economic recovery in the short term and hamstring America’s future economic growth and global competitiveness. It would end the Medicare guarantee of decent health care for senior citizens and harm our most vulnerable citizens with deep cuts to essential programs such as Medicaid and nutrition assistance. It would make it harder for Americans to go to college and buy a home. And it would once again offer lucrative tax breaks to the rich and oil companies while sticking the middle class with the tab.
What’s more, the Ryan budget proposal doesn’t even add up. The plan only achieves its objective of balancing the budget in 10 years by ignoring a $7 trillion tax hole, and by depending on unrealistically low levels of federal spending. Without specifying how he will pay for his massive tax cuts for the rich or what he will cut to bring spending down the level he proposes, Rep. Ryan’s plan is nothing more than a fantasy.
The new House budget:
- Weakens the middle class
- Gives tax breaks to the rich
- Ends the Medicare guarantee
- Stifles the economic recovery
- Undermines America’s global competitiveness
- Puts college out of reach for low-income students
- Harms our most vulnerable citizens
- Doesn’t add up
- Keeps Big Oil tax breaks and gives them new ones
- Jeopardizes homeownership for American families
Let’s take a look at each of these 10 key points.
The new budget weakens the middle class
Just about every aspect of Rep. Ryan’s budget proposal hurts the middle class. The plan would end the Medicare guarantee, which ensures that all Americans have access to adequate health care in retirement. It makes huge cuts to investments in schools and worker-training programs that help Americans find well-paying, middle-class jobs. It also slashes infrastructure investments in crucial roads, bridges, and waterways. It would make it harder for middle-class families to buy a home and send their children to college. The plan doesn’t include a single measure that would help our nation’s 12 million unemployed workers get back to work. And if that’s not bad enough, the Ryan budget would likely leave middle-class Americans paying higher taxes for these diminished services.
The new budget gives tax breaks to the rich
Like a reverse Robin Hood, what Rep. Ryan takes from the poor and middle class in his budget, he gives to the rich—and then some. The House Republican budget is chock full of goodies for the wealthiest Americans, in the form of trillions of dollars in tax breaks and cuts. Rep. Ryan and his GOP colleagues insist that all these tax boons for the rich won’t reduce overall revenue levels, but they are deliberately vague on the math. The truth is there is only one way House Republicans could possibly pay for all their proposed tax breaks for the rich, and that’s by sticking the middle class with the bill.
The new budget ends the Medicare guarantee
Once again, this year’s House Republican budget would end the Medicare guarantee of decent insurance for senior citizens and raise health care costs for seniors. The plan would replace the system we currently have with a voucher that seniors can then use to buy health insurance on the private market. As a consequence, tens of millions of seniors would be forced to pay higher premiums to stay in traditional Medicare and keep their current choice of doctors. Hundreds of thousands more would become uninsured.
The new budget stifles the economic recovery
With nearly 250,000 new jobs created in February 2013, the U.S. economy is showing promising signs of growth, but the House Republican budget would stop growth in its tracks. Not only does the plan fail to propose a single job creation measure, it would implement drastic austerity. Sequestration is already shrinking the economy to the tune of $287 billion in lost economic output in 2013, and the House GOP’s push for fiscal austerity could send the economy tumbling back into a recession.
The new budget undermines America’s global competitiveness
Not only would the House Republican budget cripple economic recovery in the short term, but it would also cut us off at the knees when it comes to investments in America’s future economic growth and global competitiveness. The plan would slash hundreds of billions of dollars from investments in transportation infrastructure, education and training, and science and technology research and development. By cutting the investments economists agree are necessary to create long-term economic growth, the House GOP would endanger America’s ability to innovate and compete in the world market for decades to come.
The new budget puts college out of reach for low-income students
In his latest budget blueprint, Rep. Ryan once again proposes massive cuts to Pell Grants, which would hurt low-income students who count on federal financial aid to go to college. The plan would cut Pell benefits and eligibility, freeze the maximum grant at $5,645 annually, and eliminate nearly $100 billion in mandatory funding for Pell. When Rep. Ryan proposed the same plan last year, an analysis by the Center for American Progress found that it would eliminate Pell Grants for more than 1 million students, reduce remaining Pell Grants by more than $1,500 per year, and add thousands of dollars in loan debt to low-income college students and their families.
The new budget harms our most vulnerable citizens
The House GOP budget would gut essential elements of the social safety net, including food assistance and health care for the poor, elderly, and disabled. The plan would convert the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, into a block grant, which would shift the burden to state budgets and make it harder for struggling families to put food on the table. It would do the same for Medicaid, forcing cash-strapped states to choose between cutting benefits or reducing eligibility. These cuts would leave our most vulnerable citizens, including nursing-home patients and disabled children, to fend for themselves.
The new budget doesn’t add up
Rep. Ryan’s big claim that his plan will balance the budget in 10 years is more fantasy than reality. To believe it, you would have to ignore $7 trillion in unspecified tax expenditure savings and impossibly low levels of nondefense discretionary spending. Rep. Ryan’s hand waving aside, these gimmicks mean it is likely that the plan will actually increase the deficit and debt, rather than reduce it.
The new budget keeps Big Oil tax breaks and gives them new ones
The House Republican budget proposal would not only keep $40 billion in tax breaks for oil-and-gas companies, but it would actually give the five biggest oil companies an additional multibillion-dollar tax cut by slashing the corporate income tax. Last year Big Oil companies raked in record profits while increasing oil and gasoline prices threatened to break middle-class family budgets. In this budget proposal, House Republicans choose to enrich oil-and-gas companies with billions of dollars in special tax giveaways at the expense of struggling American families.
The new budget jeopardizes homeownership for American families
The House GOP budget proposes to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, eliminating the federal guarantee for mortgage-backed securities issued by the mortgage giants. This would hurt homebuyers because most analysts agree that without the government guarantee, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will no longer be available. Moreover, it proposes fair value scoring for the Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, which would unnecessarily raise the cost of FHA mortgages, hitting first-time homebuyers and homebuyers of color especially hard.
For the third time, Rep. Paul Ryan has produced a budget proposal that asks the middle class to make significant sacrifices so that the rich can enjoy enormous tax cuts. Many elements of his plan for FY 2014 are identical to those he’s advocated in the past.
Like previous plans, it would weaken the American middle class while expanding economic inequality. It would cut essential programs and services that benefit low- and middle-income families while promising massive tax breaks for the rich and Big Oil companies. It would eliminate the Medicare guarantee, make it harder for kids to go to college, and crush families’ dreams of homeownership. And if that’s not bad enough, the budget plan would hurt the economic recovery in the short term while also slashing investments crucial to America’s future economic competitiveness. In short, the Ryan budget is the last thing our economy needs.
But there is one important difference between Rep. Ryan’s newest budget and the two he’s offered previously. This time, Americans have had a chance to decide for themselves whether Rep. Ryan’s plan represents the future they want for themselves and their children. They said no. Unfortunately, this budget is nothing more than the same failed approach to economics that Americans rejected at the polls last November.
Sarah Ayres is a Policy Analyst in the Economic Policy department at the Center for American Progress.