State Views: Unfortunately, Ryan budget was no April Fools' joke

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Ethel Gates
Tuesday, April 8, 2014

When I got to my office last week Tuesday, I knew it was April Fools' Day but also the day that Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and a Janesville native, was set to release his fiscal year 2015 budget.

Once I saw his proposal, I wished it was an April Fools' Day joke, but it wasn't.

Instead, it reminded me of Groundhog Day: a Ryan budget includes the same extreme cuts to services and tax breaks that it did last year and the year before.

As in previous budgets, Ryan seeks to cut the deficit on the backs of the elderly, low-income and vulnerable Americans, while the wealthy and corporations are again exempt from paying their fair share.

Unsurprisingly, low-income and vulnerable Americans do not fare well in Rep. Ryan's budget.

Among the $5.1 trillion in cuts he proposes are reducing funding for and block-granting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, at a time when there is record poverty. Cuts to SNAP would end benefits to some 3.8 million low-income people in 2014 alone.

The Ryan budget proposes to end Medicaid as we know it and instead provide fixed block grants to states. This would destroy the historic state-federal relationship underlying this safety net program and shift huge costs to the states.

The budget proposal also cuts Medicare. For people younger than 55, the budget would privatize Medicare by converting it to a system under which those who are enrolled in Medicare would receive a capped voucher to purchase private insurance in a specialized Medicare marketplace. This would mean less care and higher costs for millions of Americans.

As for the wealthy and corporations, they do quite well in this proposal, lowering the top income tax rate for the very rich from 39.6 percent to 25 percent and slashing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. These tax cuts would cost about $5 trillion over 10 years. Ryan suggests these tax breaks will be offset by closing loopholes, but the budget does not name a single loophole that he would eliminate.

To top it off, the Ryan budget would result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, the Ryan budget resolution would, on net, result in 1.1 million jobs lost in fiscal year 2015 and 3 million jobs lost in fiscal year 2016. If the economy remains sluggish at that point, large job losses could continue into fiscal year 2017 and beyond.

Budgets are not just a bunch of numbers on papers. They are blueprints that reflect our priorities and our values. Ryan's budget does not reflect the priorities or values that most Americans and Wisconsinites hold dear. It's important that we all know exactly where Rep. Ryan's priorities and values lie. Sadly, his budget proposal tells us just that.

Ethel Gates of Racine is a nursing home worker and board member of the Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Wisconsin, 260 E. Highland Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53202; phone 414-455-3840.

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