WASHINGTON -- One of the Senate GOP's leading budget mavens unveiled Wednesday the party's plan for cutting aid to the poor by $440 billion, saying the people "who really need help" in America make up a "small segment of our society."
The proposal was part of a Senate GOP budget plan detailed by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Similar to the 2013 House budget released last month by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), it comes out just after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Ryan's budget does not meet "moral criteria," largely because of its cuts to programs that aid the poor. The bishops argued for maintaining assistance aimed at needy families and people who are hungry.
Toomey, who is Catholic, said that he had not read the bishops' letters and that he doubts the opinions they represent are "monolithic."
The GOP senators' budget concludes that the current system of assistance "encourages dependency" and therefore should be reduced and changed to a state-run block grant program.
Toomey focused on that side of the equation.
"I share the view that I think most Pennsylvanians and most Americans have that we all have an obligation to look out for and provide help for people who really need help in our society," he told reporters, suggesting that too many people are receiving that aid. "There is a small segment of our society that absolutely needs a great deal of help because they can't really take care of themselves."
According to the latest Census, the number of Americans living in poverty has spiked to 49.1 million since the recession.
Toomey argued that charities and state and local governments should bear more of the burden and that individuals should look out more for themselves.
"In my experience, most people are capable of taking care of themselves at a fundamental level," said Toomey. "Most people are basically competent. Most people are able to be self-sufficient and want to be self-sufficient. I know there are other people who might disagree with that, but that's my view."
The GOP senators' budget would also reduce all marginal tax rates by 20 percent -- creating a bottom rate of 8 percent and a top rate of 28 percent -- and close unspecified tax loopholes. It was not immediately clear what that would mean for most taxpayers. The Ryan budget would allow for just two tax rates of 10 and 25 percent. That level of taxation would reap an average windfall for millionaires of $187,100, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.
Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.