After six months attacking Democrats for the alleged faults of Obamacare, Republicans finally went on the offensive with the budget plan developed by Representative Paul Ryan. The Ryan/Republican budget draws a stark contrast between the two parties.
According to the Ryan budget, America's number one problem is the deficit. Republicans claim their plan "...reduces deficits by $4.6 trillion over the next ten years... By tackling the debt, this budget will help grow our economy today and ensure the next generation inherits a stronger, more prosperous America."
Nonetheless, national polls have consistently shown that most Americans feel jobs and the economy are the nation's number one problem; we believe America should do something about the jobs crisis before we tackle deficit reduction. A January Pew Research Poll found that 80 percent of respondents wanted to strengthen the U.S. economy and 74 percent wanted to improve "the job situation." Only 63 percent of respondents wanted to reduce the budget deficit. However, 80 percent of Republicans felt this should be a top priority; only 40 percent of Democrats agreed.
In 2014, Republicans are championing an austerity budget that has been decried by economists such as Paul Krugman and Harry Stein and Michael Madowitz, who noted; "The Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, projects that [the Ryan] budget will actually shrink the economy for the next three years."
The Republican job creation "plan" is tax cuts for the wealthy. The Ryan budget has no plan for job creation other than cutting the tax rate for the rich from 39.6 percent to 25 percent (thereby handing them an average $265,000 per year tax break) and reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. This diminishes federal revenue by $6 trillion. Republicans pray their tax cuts will stimulate the economy and create the lost tax revenue.
Ryan and his fellow Republicans adhere to their failed "trickle down" ideology. Economists Harry Stein and Michael Madowitz observed: "A 2012 paper by Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez also found that cutting top marginal tax rates has not led to economic growth, but that it does seem to help the rich get richer."
The Ryan budget clobbers the social safety net. The Republican philosophy is: "For years, the federal government has been encroaching on the institutions of civil society. A distant bureaucracy has been sapping their energy and assuming their role -- when it should have been supporting them." Accordingly, the Ryan budget repeals Obamacare, cuts welfare programs, destroys Medicaid, and turns Medicare into a voucher program.
Despite its rocky start, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has provided insurance to more than 13 million uninsured. "[The Ryan] budget repeals the President's onerous health-care law. Instead of putting health-care decisions into the hands of bureaucrats, Congress should pursue patient-centered health-care reforms that actually bring down the cost of care by empowering consumers." (A February Kaiser Family Foundation Poll found that the majority of respondents (56 percent) wanted Congress to keep or improved the Affordable Care Act. Once again, opinions were divided by party; with 83 percent of Democrats positive about Obamacare and 62 percent of Republicans negative.)
The Ryan budget would repeal the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid and turn the existing Medicaid program into a block grant system administered by the states. For those Americans aged 55 and younger, the Ryan budget would turn Medicare into a voucher program.
The Republican Budget penalizes the middle class. A recent ABC News/Washington Post Poll found that when asked "which political party... do you trust to do a better job helping the middle class?" respondents preferred Democrats to Republicans by a 47 percent to 34 percent margin. (In the same poll, 68 percent of respondents described Republicans as "out of touch... with the concerns of most people in the United States.")
The Ryan budget is consistent with the perception of the GOP being out of touch with the 99 percent. Not only does the budget repeal the Affordable Care Act and radically alter Medicare and Medicaid, it also cuts welfare programs, agricultural programs, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the popular Pell grant program for student financial assistance. Republicans cut domestic programs by $791 billion over a decade, while adding $483 billion for the Department of Defense.
The Republican plan disproportionately impacts women The National Women's Law Center observed: "[The Ryan budget] changes would leave millions of women and their families without the financial security of high-quality health insurance, unable to access the health care services they need, and facing dramatic increases in their healthcare costs."
It's startling to see the difference in perspective offered in the Ryan/Republican budget and the progressive Better Off Budget. The Democratic budget creates jobs while protecting the middle class and demanding that wealthy Americans pay their fair share.
The Ryan/Republican budget puts the 2014 midterm election in perspective. Americans will choose between a new congress that caters to the 1 percent or one that protects the 99 percent. We will choose between plutocracy or democracy.