BEYOND THE NUMBERS
The new Ryan budget is a remarkable document — one that, for most of the past half-century, would have been outside the bounds of mainstream discussion due to its extreme nature. In essence, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids. It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).So, in assessing the budget that the Chairman will release this week, the issue is not whether it’s harsher than last year’s proposal but whether it continues to adhere to the same extreme approach that he has embraced in prior budgets. Here are some of the more disturbing aspects of last year’s budget:
- Radically restructured Medicaid by turning it into a block grant and slashing federal funding by more than one-third by 2022, as well as repealed health reform’s Medicaid expansion. All told, it would have added tens of millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured.
- Cut SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) by over $130 billion; if the SNAP savings were achieved entirely through eligibility cuts, 8 to 10 million low-income people would have been knocked off the rolls.
- Sharply cut other low-income programs, such as Pell Grants, by tens or hundreds of billions of dollars. The budget documents showed that $758 billion in cuts would come from mandatory programs just in the income security portion of the budget, and the bulk of mandatory spending in that category goes for low-income programs.
Under Chairman Ryan’s budget, our nation would be a very different one — less fair and less generous, with an even wider gap between the very well-off and everyone else (especially between rich and poor) — and our society would be a coarser one.That’s a yardstick that we should use in judging his new budget proposal.