Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan has drafted a proposal that plans to eliminate the annual deficit by 2023. That’s in just 10 years. How exactly does he plan to do this? Oh, just by completely reinventing how Americans view their government and repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On Fox News Sunday, Ryan appeared as a guest to discuss some of the proposals under his budget plan. Ryan informed host Chris Wallace that his budget plan assumes the repeal of the ACA. This came as a surprise to Wallace, who remarked, "Well, That’s not going to happen."
In the Ryan budget, we see a lot of the same ideas that were floated around prior to the 2012 election ... the one Paul Ryan lost. The plan is called "Path to Prosperity;" It would be more aptly titled "Path to Rolling Back All Obama-Era Legislation," but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily. The budget proposal seeks to repeal the High Speed Rail program and Wall Street regulatory reform along with the ACA.
The Ryan budget fundamentally changes Medicare. Under his plan, Medicare would end up being a voucher program beginning in 2024. Seniors would be expected to pay more out of pocket while receiving less subsidy from the government. The help they would receive would be provided by private insurance plans made available to them by the government.
The Ryan budget hacks away at other programs aimed at helping the poor. How? It changes the programs into block grants which are then managed by the states. According to Ryan’s op/ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, "It gives states flexibility so they can tailor programs like Medicaid and food stamps to their people's needs. It encourages states to get people off the welfare rolls and onto payrolls." But what does this mean and how would it be implemented?
The food stamps program would be tied to a work requirement which obviously faces complexities as the economy still lacks the millions of jobs necessary to reach higher levels of employment. Ryan routinely compares his budget plan to the bipartisan welfare reform that happened in 1996, but his plan overlooks several factors.
The success of the welfare reform of 1996 extends beyond the actual reform itself. Former President Bill Clinton describes how the earned-income tax credit and other anti-poverty programs enabled the success of welfare reform, but the Ryan plan seeks to cut programs like these from government.
Ryan says he will block the Obama welfare waivers, which he claims weakens welfare reform. During the 2012 election, Romney made a similar claim, which ended up being a lie. The Obama-proposed changes to the Temporary Assistance to Need Families (TANF) program gives states some flexibility. That flexibility is meant to allow states the right to make calls based on an individuals circumstances. These circumstances would include things like the need to take care of a special needs child or being enrolled in classes. The assumption that it removes the work requirement or grants individuals special privileges to the requirements already in place by TANF is blatantly false.
The best way to put this is that Ryan is relying on the use of a lie in order to equivocate some sort of budget savings with further welfare reform.
Ryan’s budget would not allow for Pell Grants to increase above $5,645 for 10 years. They would not even be adjusted to account for inflation. The problem with this proposal, and others in the budget plan, is that they don’t address the problems at the heart of our deficit.
Spending cuts does not a solution make. Cutting the government's role in educating our children, slashing health care, and refusing to include solutions for individuals whose homes have been foreclosed upon does not result in a more efficient government.
Health care costs are on the rise, people are living longer, and baby boomers are retiring and will continue to retire in large numbers. Each of these things impact health care and what we spend on Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care-related programs and services.
People want to get an education; the cost of higher education is sky-rocketing. We also know that more people are going back to school to get an education in the hopes of finding work. This results in an increased reliance on things like Pell Grants and other federally funded educational programs.
Each of these variables have contributed to our national debt, and will continue to contribute to our national debt. Cutting programs or slashing spending on programs that seek to remedy these problems does not solve the problem. Ryan's "solutions" do not mean that the underlying problems no longer exist.
They just mean that these people are now invisible.
If you want 30-35 million Americans to lose their access to health care, then this is the budget proposal for you.
If you believe that the budget crisis can be solved by reducing revenues and tax code progressivity, and that those changes will not adversely affect low-income Americans, support this plan.
If you believe that indiscriminately cutting social programs without a solution to fix what causes an individual's reliance on them in the first place — except of course for defense spending, which sees an increase of $500 billion over 10 years under the Ryan budget — this is the budget plan for you.