Washington Memo: Ryan’s ‘Path to Prosperity’ still a bad idea
The House Republican budget, crafted by the chairman of the budget committee, has been presented. Paul Ryan has kept the misnamed “Path to Prosperity” title for this year’s budget, and he has also kept most of his really bad ideas.
This budget is not based on any reality and lacks specifics because of it. As the Associated Press reported March 12, “A document released Tuesday offers few specifics on the proposed cuts to domestic programs, but it generally appears to incorporate spending levels for day-to-day agency operations significantly below levels called for by controversial automatic spending cuts.” Ryan’s budget needs to spell out the cuts so we can all judge it.
It also fails as a statement of our values, since its deep cuts tear at our moral and social fabric. And finally, since there is no effort to even acknowledge the other party or compromise on any issues whatsoever, it has zero chance of success. So, what exactly is in this budget?
∎ There are tax cuts – for the richest among us. A Tax Policy Center analysis of the Republican budget shows that the average millionaire would reap a $408,000 tax cut under Ryan’s proposal to reduce the top individual tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent.
∎ Unless offset, the overall tax cuts in the GOP budget add $5.7 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. Those in the top 0.1 percent of income, who make $3.3 million or more, would get a whopping $1.2 million on average. I will not vote to give still more tax cuts to the wealthiest while asking the middle class to pay more.
∎ According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Families with children that have incomes below $200,000 would have to face tax increases averaging more than $3,000 a year, if policy makers were to avoid increasing the deficit while reaching Chairman Ryan’s 25-percent, top-tax-rate goal.” That is morally wrong, and it is bad for our economy as well. We need a vibrant middle class to move this country forward.
∎ There are changes to Medicare that would be devastating to seniors. Half of all seniors have an income of $22,500 or less per year, but the tax cuts go to the richest, and the cuts in benefits and the costs fall heavily on the old and the sick. Under the Ryan budget, seniors would be handed a voucher and would have to purchase their own plan. The burden would be on them to keep costs down, and costs would rise higher than the voucher. My parents had enough difficulty negotiating the medical system with traditional Medicare. I cannot in good conscience vote to make it even more difficult and expensive for our older and sicker citizens.
Education is the key to prosperity for any nation. Young people need a good education if they are to succeed, and their families need help with the high costs of education. The Ryan budget makes very deep cuts in education, taking us backward instead of forward.
Transportation takes a hit under the Ryan plan. This is the moment where we can invest in infrastructure and both create jobs and repair and rebuild. The Democrats’ budget calls for an infrastructure bank to get America moving again, while the Ryan budget slashes investments. Again, wrong direction for job creation.
For those Americans who care about the old and the sick, who care about school lunches and Meals on Wheels for shut-ins, who care about education and research and infrastructure, this budget is the wrong approach. I know that we have to reduce the debt, but I believe a slow, careful and balanced approach is the way to go. Countries such as England that have tried austerity-only approaches have not been successful. Our economy, while still fragile, is improving. This is not the time to let ideology trump sound practice.
(Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter is a Democrat from New Hampshire’s 1st District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.)