Republicans Opt For Fiscal Suicide

Bill Scher

Last week I asked “Are Republicans Insane Enough To Propose a Balanced Budget?” Because to do so in a 10-year window, especially without raising taxes or cutting military spending, simply devastates everything our government does to benefit the middle-class, lift people out of poverty, support our health and protect the environment. In fact, Republicans were warned by one the biggest Beltway deficit hawks not to do it.

They did it.

The House budget cuts $5.5. trillion over nine years, the Senate $5.1 trillion in ten.

What does that mean? The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities details the carnage.

Less health care: “The budget repeals health reform, under which 16.4 million uninsured people have gained coverage so far, and converts Medicaid to a block grant while cutting it by roughly another $400 billion over the next decade. Together, that would add tens of millions of people to the ranks of the uninsured and the underinsured.”

Less food for the poor: “[For programs like] SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), school lunch and other child nutrition programs, Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled poor, the Earned Income Tax Credit and low-income part of the Child Tax Credit, and unemployment insurance [the Senate] plan cuts this category by $660 billion over ten years … (The budget provides no information on which programs would be cut or by how much.)

Less college for the next generation: “The plan also contains major cuts in Pell Grants, which help children from low- or modest-income families afford college.”

Less (shhh!) retirement security: “The [House] plan left a stunning $1.1 trillion in cuts in mandatory (i.e., entitlements) cuts unspecified. The [Senate] plan is similar, leaving about $1.2 trillion in such cuts unspecified.”

Less everything: “By 2025, total funding for non-defense discretionary programs would be at least 24 percent below the 2010 level adjusted for inflation, thus shrinking the funds available for investments in education, research, transportation, and other areas … Spending on government programs other than Social Security and Medicare would fall to 7.2 percent of GDP in 2025 — 40 percent below the average of 12.2 percent of GDP over the past 40 years, and far below the previous post-World War II low (which was 9.4 percent of GDP in the late 1990s). In short, the federal government outside Social Security and Medicare would gradually become a shell of its former self.”

It was one thing to produce a budget this nuts when Republicans only controlled one chamber of Congress, better insulating Republican senators who represent more diverse constituencies. But that cloak of protection was lost when they won the Senate. Now they will fully own this radical vision to “reduce [government] to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” You might have thought Grover Norquist was joking, but these Republicans aren’t.

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