It's no secret that the House Republican budget being considered this week would hurt the livelihoods of low-income Americans. Since winning control of the House in 2010, GOP leaders and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan have used the federal budget process to slash funding for education, nutrition, and job-training in order to pay for tax breaks for a fortunate few. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates, 69 percent of the cuts in the new Ryan budget come from programs for the poor.
But here's a surprise about the Ryan budget: its drastic cuts would be painful even for the nation's wealthiest one percent. Here's why:
Businesses need well-trained workers. Successful CEOs understand that America will never be able to compete with China and India on the basis of low-wages. Rather, our nation needs to compete on the basis of world-class skills and technical expertise. To do so, we must ensure access to infant nutrition, universal pre-school, well-funded public schools with reasonably-sized classes, after-school enrichment programs, and affordable colleges and technical schools. While President Obama's budget and the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget strongly prioritize these investments, the Ryan budget would cut child nutrition, demolish Head Start, reduce funding to Pell Grants, slash grants for teacher training, and end nearly all federal funding for arts, humanities, and libraries.
Investors need greater consumer demand. With inflation-adjusted wages at historic lows and still more than three applicants for every single job opening, too few Americans are able to afford homes or cars or even to eat meals out at restaurants. This shortage of consumer demand is stifling economic growth, hurting housing market recovery, and denying businesses the customers they need in order to make payroll and turn a profit. By shifting Medicaid and food assistance programs into block grants, cutting funding for low-income heating programs, and slashing federal pensions, the Ryan budget would further diminish individual Americans' purchasing power. This is one reason why the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the GOP budget would cost at least a million jobs in its first year and up to 3.3 million in its second year, while the Progressive Caucus budget would create an estimated 8.8 million jobs by 2017.
The wealthy need medical research and environmental protection, too. As The Huffington Post's Sam Stein has documented, budget cuts since the GOP takeover have devastated scientific and medical research efforts that are indispensable to the development of American products as well as the discovery of life-saving cures. These cuts affect rich and poor alike. Budget cuts have likewise undercut efforts to combat climate change and related issues of drought, ecosystem damage, and extreme weather--phenomena that are not only destroying lives and property but also projected to significantly reduce global economic growth. Because the world is at a crossroads in history, with drastic climate change all but certain absent equally drastic preventative measures, these cuts do little more than exchange present conveniences for future hardship. By making drastic cuts to scientific research, clean energy development, environmental protection, and emergency management, the Ryan budget would make all Americans -- rich and poor alike -- more vulnerable.
In the decades following the Second World War, Congress passed budgets that invested in full employment, a reliable safety net and great public institutions. From the Eisenhower highway system to Medicare to the space program and public research universities, these investments paid dividends to workers and businesses alike. Workers earned the wages needed to buy American goods and services, and, in turn, businesses had the confidence needed to keep investing and hiring. I am supporting the Congressional Progressive Caucus's Better Off Budget, the Congressional Black Caucus budget, and the House Democratic budget because they represent a return to this tradition of shared gains.
As the House votes on a budget plan this week, the choice is not between serving the rich or the poor. It's a choice between investing in broad-based prosperity and continuing a failed experiment of austerity.