Burnard: A tale of two budgetsWritten by Don Burnard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
This week, two budgets were introduced in Congress. The Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced its “Back to Work” budget, and Republican economic mouthpiece Paul Ryan introduced his “Path to Prosperity” budget — for the third year in a row — to address the “huge deficit” problem the GOP has buffaloed much of the media into thinking is the premier problem America faces.
In actuality, many real economists — that is, people whose jobs are studying economics for their entire working lives as opposed to sucking the public teat for their entire working lives — think this is pure bunk. Personally, I’m more inclined to give credence to those who have won Nobel Prizes in the field. Much of this is the standard Republican ploy of creating a huge scare tactic to try to push through the agenda they have been trying to foist on the American public for the past 30 years, even though it has been proven wrong and, as recently as last year, overwhelmingly rejected by voters.
Their rigid adherence to failed dogma rather than even attempting to address the real underlying problems facing the country is unbelievable. To the Ryan group, there might as well have not been an election. They refuse to acknowledge that their approach is flawed. To them, there is no problem that can’t be fixed by a tax cut for the wealthy. They’ve completely perverted the term “entitlement” to try to make it seem like a dirty word.
Merriam-Webster says an entitlement is “a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.” Notice the word “right.” These are programs that we have the right to, in most cases because we have paid for those rights throughout our working lives. In the case of Social Security, we’ve paid in more than most of us will ever use, and it doesn’t add a dime to the deficit! If there is to be a future shortfall, it could be easily addressed by raising the cap from $110,000 to $250,000 and voilá!, solvent until 2075! But we couldn’t possibly burden the upper crust with such a thing.
The Medicare/Medicaid problem could be addressed in any number of ways. The obvious fix would be a single-payer health care program like most of the developed world has, but we couldn’t put all those private insurance CEOs in a bind. The Ryan budget did claim it would “balance the budget” in 10 years, which is about the only new claim from the previous iterations. Alas, he leaves out the pertinent details on exactly how that would happen. Of his cuts, 68 percent would directly affect the middle class, elderly and poor. His plan would voucherize Medicare within 10 years, thus destroying the most efficient program in government and health care history, which would directly impact the elderly. Other domestic services slated for the chopping block include education, research and development, infant nutrition, workplace safety, border patrol, food and drug safety, Head Start, etc., to a degree not seen before. Other mandatory programs being slashed include Pell Grants, food stamps, school lunches, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and supplementary support for the aged and disabled poor.
In other words, it falls mainly on those who can least afford it. The rich, meanwhile, would benefit from the reduction of tax rates from 6 percdent to 2 percent, and the reduction of the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. Coupled with the fact that they got 121 percent of income growth during the Great Recession, and corporate profits are at an all-time high, it doesn’t seem to make sense to give them these new bonuses at the expense of the rest of us. More smoke and mirrors.
Finally, this week Speaker of the House, John Boehner actually admitted in an interview with Martha Raddatz, “We do not have an immediate debt crisis. But we all know that we have one looming. And we have one looming because we have entitlement programs that are not sustainable in their current form. They’re gonna go bankrupt. Washington has a responsibility — to our seniors and near seniors — that we firm these programs up so that they’re there for the long term. Because if we don’t do it, not only will they not get benefits, we will have a debt crisis right around the corner. We have time to solve our problems, but we need to do it now.”
Next up — do we really have a debt crisis? Stay tuned.
Email columnist Don Burnard at email@example.com.