Statement of Deborah Weinstein
Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The budget put forth by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan pursues a dangerous vision: that the federal government will drastically cut back health care and food assistance, essentially eliminate funds for education, housing, public health, protections for the environment and consumers, and pretty much every other investment in transit, research, and other engines of economic growth. Nearly everything shrinks in this vision of America, but two things grow: military spending and tax cuts for the richest Americans.
The shift of resources away from most Americans to the very rich is breathtaking. Over the next ten years, appropriations for everything other than defense would decline almost $1.2 trillion below the spending caps already agreed to as part of the deficit reduction law. People age 65 and 66 would be denied Medicare. Medicaid would shrink by about one-third in 2022, a cut of $810 billion over ten years. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) would be slashed by nearly$123 billion over ten years. But defense spending will rise by $228 billion through 2022, leaving no room for almost anything else except shrunken versions of health care and Social Security. The budget's repeal of the Affordable Care Act is another blow to low- and middle-income people.
Amazingly, although the budget takes aggressive steps to slash services, the budget still shows a $240 billion greater deficit at the end of ten years than if nothing in current law was changed. That is because the budget includes massive new tax cuts—nearly $4.4 trillion over 10 years—that will overwhelmingly favor people at the top. The budget claims that these tax cuts will be paid for by ending tax expenditures, although the budget fails to suggest any tax breaks it will end. And the tax cuts it would impose are so large that a great many tax breaks would have to go. In 2015, the House budget proposal would lose about $357 billion in revenue. Roughly speaking, Congress would need to end the deductions for mortgage interest, charitable giving, state and local taxes, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, the business breaks for accelerated depreciation and research and development, and the deferred taxes on 401(K) investments in order to pay for the new tax cuts. Since the new tax cut proposal drastically reduces the top rates for individuals and corporations, the overall change in the tax code would be to shift tax burden to the middle class on down.
The Ryan budget acknowledges that "Republicans, Democrats and independents all believe in a sturdy safety net for those who, through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times." But the budget systematically strips that safety net. The budget turns Medicaid and SNAP/food stamps into block grants. States would get hundreds of billions less, and the federal government would walk away from the responsibility to respond in future downturns. The budget not only cuts funds, but talks about applying time limits and work requirements to other programs serving people with very low incomes.
By abandoning the responsibility to invest in our future, the budget gravely weakens our nation. Slashing education, from preschool to Pell Grants, means the next generation will have fewer opportunities to qualify for good jobs. Massive cuts in health care and nutrition will threaten our children's health and development; cuts in housing will threaten family stability.
The President's budget, in contrast, will generate jobs and opportunity while protecting low- and middleincome people. It raises revenue from people who can afford to pay and slows the growth in military spending so we can invest in our future. That is the vision we need. The House budget's stunted vision will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and deny opportunities to millions of Americans and should be rejected.