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Ryan Budget: An Irresponsible, Immoral Proposal

Ryan Budget: An Irresponsible, Immoral Proposal

UPDATE: Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed Chairman Ryan's budget proposal on a mostly party-line vote, 228-191, with a few Republicans opposing the measure alongside all Democrats.

Open a newspaper or flip on the TV news, and you’ll hear a political commentator telling you about the evils of partisan gridlock, how today is an era of bold ideas condemned by stale ideology. Stale not so much in the sense of outdated as much as—like bread left out too long—entirely rigid.

Last year, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) penned a Fiscal Year 2012 budget resolution that seemed on its face to be a bold idea. Tackling what he identified as the No. 1 problem, the national debt, Rep. Ryan proposed a package of systematic cuts to almost every government program not directly related to national security. He paired the program cuts with massive tax cuts aimed almost exclusively at the wealthiest Americans.

For many Americans, it seemed bold—or at least unexpected. The proposal passed the House of Representatives, but was an utter non-starter with the Senate.

Recently, Rep. Ryan released his Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal, and a vote is expected in the House later today. To the casual observer, it would seem to be almost the same. Changes have been made, but the basic theme—deep, broad cuts to programs like Pell Grants and farm subsidies, and structural changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and Medicare—all sound much the same notes as last year. The Fiscal Year 2013 budget resolution also proposes simplifying the tax code into two rates—effectively doling out massive tax cuts for wealthy Americans.

Bold? The first time, maybe, although it’s hard to understand what could be bold about slashing government programs for the poor and vulnerable in exchange for tax cuts for the wealthy. Coming back to sing the same song again after being booed offstage? That’s something else altogether.

The national debt is a major problem, and it’s one that all—Democrats, Republicans, and the Reform Movement alike—agree must be dealt with. Yet the best way to cut debt is a growing economy; more people earning more money relieves pressure from government programs aimed at alleviating poverty and expands the government’s base of revenue . Balancing the need to address national debt against the need to get the economy in motion again is a delicate task—one misstep could spell disaster.

Yes, it is a time for bold thinking. But it is not a time for massive cuts to programs critical to keeping Americans out of poverty—especially not for the sake of a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. Last year was not the time, nor is this year the time. What’s more, by bringing up the same harmful, non-starter proposals as last year, the debate only grows more stale and less palatable for working Americans everywhere, who need the help the government has to offer.

Image courtesy the Christian Science Monitor

Published: 3/29/2012

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