Time To Tell Paul Ryan To Stop His April Foolishness

Isaiah J. Poole

Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, chose April 1 to release his latest Republican budget proposal. Once again, Americans are played the fools.

The latest edition of “The Path to Prosperity,” which is the title Ryan likes to use for his budget documents, is much like the previous two – less April Fool’s joke and more cruel hoax. It is true that his evoking of the same old bogeymen doesn’t frighten as easily the third time around. Still, this budget – and more importantly, the values and priorities that it enshrines – must be challenged.

That is why Social Security Works and Campaign for America’s Future have teamed up on this petition calling on the members of the House to “reject the Ryan budget.” In the first two hours after the petition was posted, more than 6,000 people signed it. Add your name to the petition now.

Ryan’s budget protects tax breaks for the very rich and the big corporations. It boasts that it cuts more than $5 trillion in spending over 10 years, and it does so largely from programs that build the middle class and protect the most vulnerable. It commits no new funding for job creation, even though that most urgent economic problem is chronic high unemployment. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute today estimated that enacting the Ryan budget would mean there would be 1.1 million fewer jobs in fiscal 2015 and 3 million fewer in 2016 than if we simply do nothing. That is because Ryan’s severe budget cuts would reduce the economic demand that government spending creates, and would thus slow the economy – just as the austerity budget of the past two years, especially with the disastrous “sequester,” already have.

Our allies at the National Priorities Project have produced this side-by-side comparison of the Ryan budget with the Obama administration’s budget proposal and the Congressional Progressive Caucus “Better Off Budget.”

The budget repeats Ryan’s discredited plan to have Medicare compete with a privatized health insurance scheme, in which seniors would get a “premium support” voucher to help them pay for private insurance. “This is not a voucher program,” the budget document says, but what seniors would receive is essentially the very definition of a voucher: “A Medicare premium-support payment would be paid, by Medicare, directly to the plan or the fee-for-service program to subsidize its cost.”

The April foolishness here is obvious. Ryan is proposing for seniors eligible for Medicare what Republicans have denounced for everyone else: the original vision of an Affordable Care Act in which a “public option” competed side-by-side with private health care exchanges, with subsidies available for those choosing the private exchanges who needed them. As we know, the public option died in Congress, leaving the private insurance companies without a competitive check on their behavior. (Think Progress caught on to this bit of Ryan double-talk.)

That, of course, is not all. The Ryan budget cuts $125 billion from food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and allows states to require people to work for their benefits – even though a high percentage of SNAP recipients already work. College aid, support for schools, Head Start, child nutrition are all savaged.

In addition to calling for complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Ryan’s budget once again would take an axe to the Medicaid program, slashing spending by $1.5 billion and shifting it from a mandatory program, in which people receive benefits based on their eligibility, to a block grant program in which individual states would determine recipients. We already are seeing the results of Republican governors refusing to accept federal Medicaid funding for people getting policies through the Affordable Health Care Act exchanges: Nearly 8 million people not receiving health care coverage they would otherwise be able to afford. The Ryan budget would doubtless add to those totals as it gives more incentive to red-state governors to exclude their citizens from coverage.

In sum, this budget will increase inequality and misery, while slowing growth and costing jobs. It should be an April Fool’s joke, but it isn’t. The vast majority of Republicans are lined up to vote for it.

Voting against this isn’t sufficient. Your member of Congress should condemn its values and priorities forcefully. Each should make himself or herself clear on where they stand: Are you for protecting Medicare or for privatizing it? For making college more affordable, or preserving tax breaks for hedge fund billionaires?

The Congressional Progressive Caucus Better Off Budget invests in America because the best way to reduce our long-term deficit is to put people back to work. In the first year, it will create nearly 9 million American jobs while increasing economic growth by 5.7 percent. It has a real jobs plan that repairs our roads and bridges, and puts teachers, cops and firefighters back to work.

The Better Off Budget strengthens Medicare and Medicaid, and provides high quality, low-cost medical coverage to millions of Americans when they need it most.

It’s time we side with America’s middle class and invest in their future. Tell the House to reject Paul Ryan’s April foolishness.


This post was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include links and details from the Economic Policy Institute and National Priorities Project analyses.

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