House Passes Ryan-Romney Budget

— by David A. Harris

This latest Republican budget is chiefly the work of Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney declaring himself ‘very supportive’ — even calling it ‘bold and exciting.’ And this Ryan-Romney budget is simply a disaster for Americans. A budget is a reflection of our values, and this budget stands in stark contrast to the values of the vast majority of American Jews — and most other Americans as well. The Ryan-Romney budget strands seniors, the poor, and America’s middle class while protecting tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans — casting fairness and any shred of shared responsibility to the wind. In addition the budget contains cuts to the foreign aid budget — cuts that the pro-Israel community has long opposed. As experts and observers have noted, the Ryan-Romney budget is a bad deal for nearly all Americans, and American Jews will remember this when they go to the polls in November.

New Republican Budget Guts Medicare, Social Safety Net

Today, House Republicans unveiled their new budget that — like their budget from last year — fails to address America’s budget needs responsibly or preserve vital social safety net programs.

Last year, several Jewish community organizations and leaders expressed deep concern about the Republicans’ budget proposals. The GOP’s budget this year contains similar policies that only amplify the Republican Party’s message that it does not support the programs supported by the mainstream of the American Jewish community.

Indeed, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Associate Director Mark Pelavin said:

As an affirmation of our national priorities, the budget is inherently and inescapably a moral document. We support, and have long supported, a federal budget that reflects our solemn moral obligation to guard the most vulnerable in our society. House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), however, has chosen a different path. By ending the entitlement status of Medicaid and Medicare, fundamentally altering the tax system, and slashing spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and education programs, the Ryan plan would turn our backs on our obligation to care for all Americans.

More after the jump.
And JTA reported on the Jewish reaction to this year’s budget:

Jewish groups are among dozens of religious denominations and organizations endorsing a ‘Faithful Budget’ in opposition to the Republican budget proposal, which would cut Medicaid spending and disproportionately shift Medicare costs to fixed-income seniors….

‘During this time of great need in this country, it is essential that we lift our collective voices to speak to the social and ecological challenges our nation faces,’ Rabbi David Saperstein, executive director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in a statement. ‘The Faithful Budget begins that effort.’…

‘The proposal before the House Budget Committee would cut spending for and reduce access to SNAP and other critical human needs programs,’ Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said in a statement. ‘We should not balance the federal budget on the backs of the most vulnerable. Instead, we should be offering them support to help them get back on their feet and get our economy back on track.’

In addition, B’nai B’rith International President Allan Jacobs noted in a statement that ‘the proposals would shift costs to Medicare beneficiaries while cutting programs that make critical investments for the poorest Americans who are least able to absorb these cuts.’

‘We shouldn’t be asking those with the fewest resources to give first,’ said Jacobs.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said about the GOP’s budget plan:

The House budget once again fails the test of balance, fairness, and shared responsibility.  It would shower the wealthiest few Americans with an average tax cut of at least $150,000, while preserving taxpayer giveaways to oil companies and breaks for Wall Street hedge fund managers. What’s worse is that all of these tax breaks would be paid for by undermining Medicare and the very things we need to grow our economy and the middle class – things like education, basic research, and new sources of energy. And instead of strengthening Medicare, the House budget would end Medicare as we know it, turning the guarantee of retirement security into a voucher that will shift higher and higher costs to seniors over time.

Reuters contrasted the Republicans’ approach with the plans supported by President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats:

Where Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and boost near-term spending on infrastructure and education, the Republicans want to cut taxes and spending on healthcare and social safety net programs – benefits used more by the poor and middle classes….

The Republican budget achieves much of its deficit-reduction goals through savings gained by dismantling Obama’s 2010 healthcare reform law and by turning social safety net programs like food stamps and the Medicaid program for the poor into block grants for states.

The Republicans’ latest budget ends Medicare as we know it by replacing long-standing guaranteed retirement program with a voucher system that will leave future seniors to cover extra costs. Reuters noted the key difference between the Republicans’ plan and the plan supported by the President:

Future retirees would get an allowance to help them buy healthcare insurance. They would be able to choose private insurance plans or traditional Medicare, both of which would be offered on a special exchange. This is a slight change from Ryan’s proposal last year, which was met with loud criticism from Democrats and retiree groups. Outside experts estimated out-of-pocket expenses for the elderly would have risen by about $6,000 a year under Ryan’s Medicare reforms unveiled a year ago.

Obama’s budget calls for Medicare savings, but mostly by cutting payments to medical providers, not beneficiaries.

Think Progress noted that the Republicans’ budget also calls for the repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. In particular, the Republicans aim to:

  • Repeal the ban on discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions
  • Repeal tax credits that prevent health care costs from ravaging an individual’s income
  • Roll back the expansion of Medicaid to those living poverty

Click here to read Think Progress’ analysis. And click here to read their list of the “Top Five Worst Things About the House GOP’s Budget.”

The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer analyzed the Republican budget’s impact on the social safety net:

Over the next decade, Ryan would spend 30 percent less than the White House on ‘income security’ programs for the poor – that’s everything from food stamps to housing assistance to the earned-income tax credit. (Ryan’s budget would spend $4.8 trillion over this timeframe; the White House’s would spend $6.8 trillion.) Compared with Obama, Ryan would spend 38 percent less on transportation and 24 percent less on veterans. He’d spend 20 percent less on ‘General science, space, and basic technology.’ And, compared with the White House, he’d cut ‘Education, training, employment, and social services’ by a full 44 percent.

Click here to read Plumer’s analysis of the Republican budget. Click here to learn why Plumer’s colleague Ezra Klein considers the GOP budget to be unrealistic.  

In addition, Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin discovered that the budget contains cuts to the foreign aid budget-cuts that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the pro-Israel community have long opposed:

[A]pparently Ryan does not believe diplomacy and development are part of that tool kit, because his proposal would see the international affairs account slashed from $47.8 billion in fiscal 2012 to $43.1 billion in fiscal 2013, $40.1 billion in fiscal 2014, $38.3 billion in fiscal 2015, and $38.1 billion in fiscal 2016. The State Department and USAID wouldn’t see their budget get back to current levels until after 2022 if Ryan were to have his way….

‘The Ryan budget fails to recognize that diplomacy and development are essential to protecting our national security, alongside defense,’ said House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Howard Berman (D-CA). ‘In his own words, Chairman Ryan sets up a choice: “decline as a world power vs. renewed American leadership.” But by viewing the choice exclusively in terms of military spending, he cuts the very resources that would make strong and effective U.S. international leadership a reality. The Republican budget would take us down the road of decline as a world power.’

After examining the budget, the editorial boards of The New York Times and The Washington Post slammed the latest GOP budget. According to The Times:

As he rolled out his 2013 budget on Tuesday, Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, correctly said that he and his fellow Republicans were offering the country a choice of two very clear futures. The one he outlined in his plan could hardly be more bleak.

It is one where the rich pay less in taxes than the unfairly low rates they pay now, while programs for the poor – including Medicaid and food stamps – are slashed and thrown to the whims of individual states. Where older Americans no longer have a guarantee that Medicare will pay for their health needs. Where lack of health insurance is rampant, preschool is unaffordable, and environmental and financial regulation are severely weakened.

Mr. Ryan became well known last year as the face of the most extreme budget plan passed by a house of Congress in modern times. His new budget is, if anything, worse, full of bigger, emptier promises. It is largely in agreement with the plans of the Republican presidential candidates….

These extreme cuts and changes would greatly impede the nation’s economic recovery, and hurt those on the middle and lower economic rungs who suffered most from the recession. The contrast with President Obama’s budget, which raises taxes on the rich to protect vital programs while reducing the deficit, could not be more clear.

Click here to read The Times’ editorial.

Noting the criticism that has come from observers and experts alike, The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent succinctly summarized the newest GOP budget by writing:

[T]he verdict is in: Paul Ryan’s budget is a blueprint for radical right-wing economic extremism and a monumental con job.


So what exactly was in that budget deal?


Ezra Klein produced this chart comparing the 2011 continuing resolution with President Obama’s 2011 budget request.

The Republican led House has insisted in draconian cuts across the board except for defense related expenses, and its own legislative budget. The defense department will expand, even without counting the “emergency spending” for the wars. The legislative branch will tighten its belt 2% while “financial services and general government” which includes the White House will be slashed by 10%. The Interior Department is reduced by 8% (mostly the EPA) while Transportation, Housing and Urban Development is cut 18%.

GOP Budget Cuts Off Bubbie and Zadie

— David Harris

This week, GOP House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposed 2012 budget will become the basis for negotiations between Congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama. Ryan’s budget effectively cuts off bubbie, zadie, and the neediest among us from the social safety net that enables America’s seniors – along with women, children, and working families – to live dignified and secure lives.

Ryan’s GOP budget contains deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other vital social safety net programs including food stamps, Pell grants, and housing aid. It even contains a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act – Obama’s health care reform package – which is on track to help millions of Americans receive better health care while cutting the deficit.

A budget is more than just a fiscal spreadsheet – it’s a statement of our values. And we need your help to defend our Jewish values! Take a look at what leaders from the American Jewish community have said about this GOP budget and then take action! (You can click each name to read more about Ryan’s GOP budget and its negative consequences.)

“Anyone can cut the budget by arbitrarily capping programs. The real challenge we face is to reduce the deficit without decimating help for the neediest among us, or making retirement impossible for the next generation.” – B’nai B’rith interim President Alan J. Jacobs

“If a budget is a reflection of our national priorities and morals, then we cannot ignore the reality of hungry families and high unemployment.” – Jewish Council for Public Affairs Chair Dr. Conrad Giles

“Everyone would suffer under Chairman Ryan’s proposals, but women would suffer more.” – National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) President Linda Slucker and NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman

“Ryan’s budget resolution prioritizes the wealthy over the needy, and, therefore, does not reflect the values to which we aspire as … Americans.” – Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Associate Director Mark J. Pelavin

 

JTA also reported Representative Howard Berman‘s (D-CA) reaction to the impact that Ryan’s proposed budget cuts would have on foreign aid — which could pose significant risks for Israel. Berman “said the proposal, which would slash the international affairs budget by 40 percent, sets ‘a new standard for recklessness and irresponsibility.'” Berman also dubbed the plan “a slap in the face” to military leaders, who have “long argued time and again that diplomacy and development are key pillars of U.S. national security.”

Reform Movement Condemns Ryan 2012 Budget Proposal

— Mark J. Pelavin, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Congressman Ryan’s budget resolution prioritizes the wealthy over the needy, and, therefore, does not reflect the values to which we aspire as Reform Jews and as Americans.

The moral impact of a budget is measured by its effect on the person most in need. House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2012 budget resolution fails on this count. By ending entitlement status for Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and by privatizing Medicare, Congressman Ryan’s proposal, if adopted, would fundamentally and unjustly restructure our commitment to seniors and low-income families. By extending additional tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations, it would undoubtedly expose additional social safety net programs to budget cuts.

More after the jump.
Deuteronomy commands, “Do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman.” On the basis of this precept the Reform Movement has long opposed block granting and privatization of entitlement programs. For, as the Union for Reform Judaism’s 1981 resolution on the federal budget stated, “It is a pernicious idea that somehow the poor, or public assistance to the poor, is the cause of our economic problems and that solutions at their expense are permissible.” For the same reason, the Union for Reform Judaism in 2001 opposed “tax policies that unfairly and inequitably bestow their benefits on the wealthy” and that “restrict the government’s ability to address urgent needs.” Congressman Ryan’s budget resolution prioritizes the wealthy over the needy, and, therefore, does not reflect the values to which we aspire as Reform Jews and as Americans.

Currently, the federal government matches state spending to cover all individuals who are eligible for Medicaid. Congressman Ryan’s proposal would convert Medicaid into a block grant program, eliminating federal requirements for the program and giving states a predetermined amount of money to spend on health care for the poor, disabled, and elderly. The resolution would make similar changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Whether or not states maintain their commitment to populations in need of assistance would be a matter subject to shifting political winds and short-term economic considerations.

The Ryan proposal would also end Medicare as we know it, substituting the current single-payer model with a system in which seniors would need to choose from a variety of private health insurance policies. Seniors would be eligible for vouchers to pay for the private insurance based on need. This plan would expose seniors to the iniquities and imperfections of the for-profit health care system, causing more seniors to fall victim to poverty and would drive up the cost of health care.

In addition, the proposal is a microcosm of the misguided priorities that created the budget crisis in the first place, lavishing even more tax breaks on the individuals and corporations whose need is least acute. At a time when the federal government brings in less revenue as a percentage of GDP than at any time since President Truman occupied the Oval Office, Congressman Ryan proposes reducing the top corporate and individual income tax rate from 35 to 25 percent for the highest earners. Giving the well-heeled yet another handout would threaten even more social safety net programs with deep cuts.

We call on Congress to pass a 2012 budget that restores fiscal order in a responsible and moral manner-one that would not force the disadvantaged to shoulder the burden of budget cuts.

Paul Ryan’s Budget Cuts Would Dismantle Medicare, Medicaid

Planned Reliance on Private Insurance Will Hurt Seniors and Neediest

— Sharon Bender

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) proposed a 2012 Federal budget that would drastically cut-and fundamentally damage-important health programs Medicaid and Medicare.  These are programs on which millions of vulnerable Americans rely for help meeting their most important and least affordable need: health care.  


The proposed budget does not control health costs or encourage efficiencies in the broader health care system; it simply relies on dramatic cuts, with a staggering impact on the elderly. By making Medicaid a block grant while creating a decreasingly valuable Medicare voucher, this bill would deal a devastating double-blow to older adults as well as the disabled.

This proposal would end the guaranteed Medicare coverage as we know it for the next generation of seniors (starting in 2022, which impacts those born since 1957) and replace it with a voucher to buy health care in the private insurance market-a market with a poor track record of providing affordable, quality health insurance to older people.  Even more troubling, these vouchers would not keep pace with the rising cost of all health care, about which this plan does nothing.

In order to reduce deficits, the budget proposal would transform Medicaid into a block grant program while dramatically reducing the federal contribution to the program. This would no longer allow the program to expand based on the number of qualified people in need. Rather, it saves money simply by offering reduced benefits or covering fewer people. “Anyone can cut the budget by arbitrarily capping programs,” said Allan J. Jacobs, B’nai B’rith interim international president. “The real challenge we face is to reduce the deficit without decimating help for the neediest among us, or making retirement impossible for the next generation. This means we must be straightforward with one another about how we are saving money. Unfortunately the savings in this budget seem to come simply from doing less for the people who need the most.”  

More after the jump.
B’nai B’rith is disturbed and frankly surprised by the attempt to privatize Medicare. Past experiments with privatization in Medicare have not saved money. Instead, they have created additional spending and unnecessary confusion without providing better health outcomes.  

“Adding private plans into the mix has already created a highly confusing maze through which the elderly must wade, especially in Medicare Part D, without providing savings to the government or better choices for the consumer,”  B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said. “The savings in this budget come not from theoretical-but-never-realized-efficiencies of the private market, but by cutting the amount spent per beneficiary.”

B’nai B’rith is also troubled by the peculiar references to Social Security in this budget proposal, including certain “triggers” that would be created to “force” action on Social Security.  As in 1983 (the last time major reforms of Social Security were made) changes to make Social Security stronger can and should be made by experts and policymakers working together, with Social Security solvency and sufficiency as their goal. These triggers are not an appropriate mechanism to replace responsible actions.

B’nai B’rith is fully aware of the steep deficits this nation faces. But blind cuts that don’t take into account  long-term consequences could lead to greater expenses as more and more people fall through our valued and needed social safety nets.