After Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to pass the so-called "Ryan Budget," Committee Chairman Paul Ryan proclaimed that he was "happy to say we have taken another step on the path to prosperity." But given that this budget makes across-the-board slashes to social safety net programs that all but the richest Americans rely on at some point in their lives, we have to ask, "Prosperity for whom?"
Finding an answer to this question requires an examination of the Ryan Budget and its stark contrast with the budget proposed by President Barack Obama. Both budgets aim to reduce America's growing deficit. But how do they pay for it?
In order to pay off the debt, the Ryan Budget requires 85 percent of the households that are living below the poverty line to sacrifice the food assistance they desperately depend on. It cuts $133.5 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next 10 years, neglecting the nutritional needs of over 46 million Americans. The budget also deprives America's elderly of free preventative care currently provided by Medicare. They would once again have to pay out-of-pocket for prescription drugs that fall within the so-called "donut hole." Americans who are poor or have disabilities would also suffer, as the Ryan Budget slashes Medicaid by $810 billion over the next decade. Republicans expect sacrifice from another 60 million Americans, including 16 million seniors and individuals with disabilities and 33 million children, who stand to lose their healthcare coverage under the Ryan Budget.
There are some groups exempt from these draconian measures. Under the Ryan Budget, large corporations and the wealthiest Americans enjoy huge tax breaks funded by cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and SNAP. Millionaires would on average receive $265,000 in new tax cuts, on top of the $129,000 they would receive from the budget's extension of President George W. Bush's tax cuts. Wall Street and Big Oil would also enjoy Republican largesse in the form of massive tax breaks and gaping tax loopholes. It is no wonder that millionaires, billionaires, and corporate lobbyists are championing the Ryan Budget: it was designed to line their pockets.
In contrast, President Obama's proposed budget would reduce the deficit without forcing the most vulnerable Americans to pay for it. The president's budget is based on the belief that we should all play by the same rules and get a fair shot at achieving the American Dream. It supports reforms in the Affordable Care Act to close the prescription drug donut hole for seniors with high prescription drug costs and ensures free preventative care. Crucially, it also rejects any policy to end Medicare's guarantee of healthcare coverage for seniors and disabled workers, and ensures that the social safety net remains intact. Moreover it maintains Medicaid so that 57 million low-income people could continue to get healthcare.
In addition to offering expanded security to millions of hardworking Americans, the president's budget reduces the federal deficit by more than $3 trillion over the next 10 years by closing corporate tax loopholes, cutting war spending, letting the Bush tax cuts expire, and increasing taxes for the richest Americans.
As such, President Obama's budget offers a vast reduction in the deficit while ensuring prosperity for all Americans. The Ryan Budget does neither. It is nothing more than Robin Hood in reverse: it would produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern history. At a time when economic inequality in our nation between the top 1% and the 99% is already staggering, the Ryan Budget threatens to exacerbate this unfortunate situation. We should let our moral compass guide us as America decides how its tax dollars are spent. The Republicans and President Obama are offering two different visions of prosperity. The question is, "Prosperity for whom?"
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