This week the House voted on budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2013. The Republican budget, put forward by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, was presented as "a choice between two futures" that would show a stark contrast between their priorities and those of Democrats.
They were absolutely right: the choice could not be more clear. The Republican budget presents the American people with a vivid picture of the direction its authors want to take this country. Its vision consists of ending the Medicare guarantee and cutting taxes for the wealthiest among us, while putting jobs and our economic recovery at risk.
By ending the Medicare guarantee, the Republican budget shifts increasing costs to seniors and the disabled over the next several years. It reopens the Medicare Part D "donut hole" -- that is now closing, thanks to the Affordable Care Act -- which will lead to $44 billion in increased drug costs for seniors by 2020. Furthermore, their budget turns Medicaid into a block grant program and slashes its funding by one-third over the next decade, jeopardizing access to health care and nursing home care for seniors, the disabled, and low-income Americans. And it repeals the patient protections and the cost containment policies of the Affordable Care Act.
At the same time, the Republican budget cuts jobs and puts our economic recovery at risk by slashing critical investments in programs that are key to our economic strength and that protect the most vulnerable among us. It cuts highway funding, which will impede our ability to support commerce and all the jobs that depend on goods moving quickly from manufacturer to market. It decimates investments in education and in building an educated workforce through reductions in financial aid to millions of students -- including cuts to Pell grants -- and it will widen the achievement gap by kicking more than 200,000 low-income preschoolers out of Head Start. Instead of providing a boost to innovation, a driver for economic competitiveness, the Republican budget cuts $11 billion in scientific, medical, and technological research just next year alone. Their budget also guts programs aimed at deploying domestic renewable energy and advanced vehicle technologies -- areas where investments could grow countless middle-class jobs for years to come, and are critical to pursuing an "all of the above" energy strategy.
All of us want to put America back on a sustainable fiscal path, but to do so everyone must be asked to pitch in. The Republican budget, however, places the entire burden of deficit reduction on the middle class, seniors, and the most vulnerable among us while giving $1 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthiest. An individual earning $1 million a year would receive, on average, a $150,000 tax cut.
On top of that, Republicans are breaking the agreement reached last August that set spending levels for this year. By doing so, they are once again putting us at risk for a government shutdown, contributing to the uncertainty American businesses, investors, and families are already facing, and undercutting their credibility in future negotiations.
Democrats take a sharply different view. As a reflection of our values and aspirations, our budget invests in a strong economy, preserves the Medicare guarantee, and moves us toward fiscal soundness. It seeks to build on the progress we've already made in our economic recovery by helping our businesses compete globally, making it easier for Americans who are out of work to find jobs, and reducing the deficit in a balanced way.
The Democratic budget put forward by Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen reflects House Democrats' Make It In America plan for creating jobs and strengthening our economic competitiveness. It contains provisions to help revitalize American manufacturing, and it calls for investments in innovation, education, and infrastructure that will help businesses expand and grow jobs that won't be shipped overseas.
Make It In America is an investment in a future unlike the one that would result from Republicans' disastrous budget. As the budget and appropriations process moves forward, Democrats will use every opportunity to advance Make It In America items.
Democrats welcome the distinction Chairman Ryan and other Republicans seek to draw between their policy priorities of ending Medicare and cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires and our plan to create jobs, invest in economic competitiveness, lower costs for seniors, and grow the middle class.
Our budget can be a down payment for the kind of country we wish to see in the years ahead, where American businesses thrive, where the middle class is strong and growing, and where seniors' health security is protected. That is the direction our budget should take, and it's the future I know we can achieve.
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