Today’s unveiling of the House Republican budget resolution sees House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) rehashing the same failed budget priorities that were met with widespread criticism last year. Tax cuts for people who don’t need them and economic insecurity for everyone else is grossly irresponsible budget and economic policy.
Last year, Ryan proposed a radical budget that would have slashed taxes—particularly for the highest-income earners—while financing these tax cuts by shifting costs and risk onto seniors, the disabled, and low-income households, and by halving investments in education, infrastructure, housing, and public safety programs. Ryan’s cuts to the domestic discretionary budget would have cost the economy more than two million jobs over two years. At the same time, his proposed tax cuts were so large that the entire budget would barely have made an impact on the deficit over the decade.
One might have expected events over the last year to cause Ryan to moderate his spending cut proposals in this year’s House budget resolution. The 112th Congress has taken an entirely unbalanced, spending-cuts-only approach to deficit reduction: More than $1.6 trillion in spending cuts have already been enacted through recent appropriations bills and the Budget Control Act, which cut and capped discretionary spending. In addition, the debt ceiling standoff in August 2011 demonstrated the danger of staking out extreme positions on fiscal policy. And in stark contrast to Ryan’s last budget, a handful of proposals—including those from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Economic Policy Institute, and President Obama—proved that budget sustainability can be achieved without inflicting great harm on low- and moderate-income Americans.
But today we find that Ryan has failed to learn the lessons of the last year. He again proposes tax cuts for the rich at the expense of seniors, the disabled, and children. He would cut taxes by roughly
$3 trillion $4.6 trillion (according to a Tax Policy Center analysis just put out), with most of the tax cuts going to people earning more than $200,000. His proposed cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and food assistance would all fall heavily on seniors, the disabled, and children. Ryan’s budget is doubly bad for children because his proposed cuts to public investments (mostly infrastructure and education) would cause children to inherit a country with crumbling roads and bridges and to enter the labor market with fewer skills.
Reneging on commitments to seniors, the disabled, and younger generations because of an unwillingness—not an inability—to fund our social contract is a choice, not a necessity. Yet Ryan has once again unabashedly decided to aid the very fortunate at the expense of the rest of us—particularly the most vulnerable.