On March 24, the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, published data that surprised even the staunchest advocates for health care reform: New estimates show that total federal spending in fiscal year 2016 for major health care programs will be lower than was projected back in January 2009. Why is this shocking? The January 2009 projections did not include the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, which was not signed into law until March 2010. This means that federal health programs are covering more people while spending less money.
Though the ACA coverage expansion added new costs, total spending for federal health programs is still less than what the CBO projected in January 2009 because of huge savings from Medicare. In fact, the CBO’s projections for FY 2016 Medicare spending have fallen $107 billion since January 2009. A portion of the Medicare savings can be unambiguously attributed to the ACA.
The House GOP-dominated Budget Committee held 9 hour markup, with several lawmakers going hoarse and one losing her voice. Democrats offered up 29 amendments, involving immigration reform, prescription drug prices, and equal pay. Every amendment failed, including one proposed by Rep. Debbie Dingell [D, MI-12] that would have designated $457.5M in emergency funding for Flint and required Michigan to match the federal funds. The budget advanced 20-16, with Democrats voting against and all but one Republican voting for the measure. Here’s their summary:
Balances the Budget
Balances the budget within 10 years – without raising taxes – and puts the country on a path to paying off the national debt
This budget achieves $7 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years through a combination of $6.5 trillion in savings coupled with economic growth
Savings are higher than any previous House Budget Committee proposal and discretionary spending is below 2008 levels
Requires consideration of legislation this year to achieve at least $30 billion in automatic spending reductions and reforms over the near term
Advances budget process reforms to promote fiscal discipline, and calls for a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment this year
Strengthens Our National Defense
Provides for greater security at home and strength abroad at funding levels above the president’s budget and with increased resources for training, equipment and compensation
Supports the bipartisan prohibition on closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and transfer of detainees to American soil
Identifies vulnerabilities in our nation’s refugee program and calls for oversight and rigorous screening
Calls for an improved and accountable Department of Veterans Affairs that can better deliver services and benefits to our veterans
Empowers Our Citizens & Communities
Promotes job creation and a healthier economy by calling for a fairer, simpler tax code, regulatory reform, expanded energy production, and a more efficient, effective and accountable government
Repeals all of Obamacare (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act)
Endorses patient-centered health care solutions that improve access to quality, affordable care (but does absolutely nothing to assure access to insurance nor does it rein in health care costs)
Saves, strengthens, and secures Medicare for current and future retirees (read the Q&A carefully as to HOW they intend to do that)
Empowers states and local communities with the flexibility to innovate and make improvements to Medicaid, nutrition assistance, education and other programs
Strengthens the Disability Insurance program by putting an end to the “double-dipping” loophole that currently allows individuals to receive both unemployment insurance and disability insurance simultaneously
Puts an end to corporate welfare and dismantles the Department of Commerce [that would mean they intend to help balance the budget by issuing pink slips to 43,000+ employees and ending measuring services like: Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), U.S. Census Bureau (Census), Economic Development Admin (EDA), Economics and Statistics Admin (ESA), International Trade Admin (ITA), Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), Natl Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Natl Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Natl Technical Information Service (NTIS), Operation Natl Telecom & Information Admin (NTIA), and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Frequently Asked Questions(Make sure you read the Q&A regarding “full” repeal of the Affordable Care Act, AND the dance they do to explain how their “voucher” approach to Medicare isn’t really a “voucher” program for their apparent privatization of our trust fund contributions)
The Omnibus Spending Bill And Tax Extenders Package Contain Significant Progressive Accomplishments
After weeks of negotiations, congressional leaders and the White House have agreed to a spending deal to fund the government through 2016. The omnibus spending bill and the tax extenders package still need final approval from the House and Senate. But with the release of the bill, all that’s left are the final votes, which are both expected tomorrow. There’s a lot to unpack in the 2,009-page bill, so we’ve broken it down into the good, the bad, and the fun.
Permanent Renewals Of Earned Income Tax Credit And Child Tax Credit Expansions: Under the stimulus bill, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit—two key programs that help keep millions of Americans out of poverty—were expanded until 2017. But the tax extenders package made the extensions permanent, a clear win for working families. Allowing these expansions to expire would have pushed 16 million Americans, including 8 million children, into or deeper into poverty.
Wind and Solar Tax Credit Extension: Renewable energy was also a winner in this year’s budget deal, thanks to a five-year extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit and the wind Production Tax Credit. Solar accounts for 1 in 78 new jobs in the country, and the solar Investment Tax Credit has been a crucial driver in the growing industry. The increase of wind and solar capacity is seen as a critical way for the U.S. to meet its goals under the Clean Power Plan as well as its commitments under the new UN climate agreement.
Accountability For Fast Food Chains: Congressional Republicans tried to block a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that makes large corporations like McDonald’s responsible for how their franchises treat workers. The ruling, which remained intact, may force McDonald’s and similar brands to take responsibility for workplace conditions. This could significantly improve the chances that workers can force change in the industry.
Health Care For 9/11 First Responders: A health care bill for 9/11 first responders—brought to national attention thanks to the advocacy of Jon Stewart—was included in the year-end spending bill. The legislation was also included in the omnibus, only after 9/11 first responders made hundreds of advocacy trips to D.C.
Investment In The Middle Class: The omnibus bill funds key investments in a number of areas to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy. These investments include education from early childhood through college, medical and science research, transportation infrastructure, and conservation. These investments were made possible by the recent budget deal, which reversed about 90 percent of the cuts sequestration would have made to nondefense discretionary programs in fiscal year 2016.
Defeat of Many Policy Riders: Congressional Republicans had a long wish list of inappropriate and nongermane partisan policy riders. Luckily, many failed, including riders that would have defunded Planned Parenthood, made it harder for Syrian refugees to come to the United States, blocked the Department of Labor from protecting retirees’ savings, and hindered the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s ability to protect consumers.
A Win For Big Oil: Unfortunately, lawmakers also handed a win to big oil. As a part of a broader energy package, including the wind and solar tax credit extensions, the 40-year-old crude oil export ban was lifted, meaning American crude oil can be shipped abroad for the first time since the 1970s. Lifting the ban has been a priority for the oil industry. Many environmental groups are concerned that the policy change could lead to more domestic drilling and the potential for additional pollution.
Decreased Transparency In Money In Politics: Snuck into the 2,009-page omnibus bill are two sections that will only make the influence of money in politics worse. Section 735 would block the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ability to require companies that receive federal contracts to disclose their contributions to political organizations. And Section 127 will prohibit the IRS from formalizing proposed rules to reign in political groups who use the title of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) “social welfare” non-profits to avoid disclosing their funding.
Bans On Gun Violence Research (Still): Public health, medical, and gun violence prevention advocates were unable to take out a rider known as the “Dickey amendment,” which effectively prevents the CDC and NIH from doing any research on gun violence. The provision was maintained despite the fact that former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR), for whom the amendment is named, has since spoken out against the policy saying he regrets no research is being done. The good news is, despite the fact that the NRA spent more than $27 million to elect a Republican majority in the 2014 elections, several other gun lobby priority items failed to make it in.
Sledding provision: The crude oil export ban wasn’t the only ban lifted as a part of the budget deal: In a big win for winter cheer, the sledding ban on Capitol Hill was also lifted, ending an official ban of 14 years.
BOTTOM LINE: Crisis averted? We’ll see tomorrow when the House has scheduled a vote on this ill-conceived budget. Congress has (almost) successfully avoided a government shutdown and agreed on a spending bill to fund the government for the next year. The deal is imperfect, but it is largely absent of highly partisan riders and funds key investments in a number of areas to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy.
Clinton vs. Sanders vs. O’Malley On Fixing Banking
How do we fix Wall Street, a.k.a. “the banks”? How do the candidates compare? … The first place to look, of course, is CAF’s Candidate Scorecard … Clinton’s 63 percent rating is primarily based on not having a position on a financial transaction tax … as well as opposing reinstating some form of a Glass-Steagall Act and a lack of specific proposals related to the categories “Break Up Big Banks” and “Affordable Banking.” Meanwhile, Sanders rates 100 percent … O’Malley is stressing his positions on and independence from Wall Street [and] also has a 100 percent…
Blue States Make Voting Easier as Red States Add Restrictions
“In Illinois, a new provision allows voters to register electronically when they visit various state agencies. And in Delaware, some residents with criminal records will regain the right to vote … In Republican-controlled states, the story is different. North Carolina has instituted a new voter ID requirement. North Dakota has narrowed the forms of identification voters can present … Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature has instituted … shorter early voting hours.” Meanwhile, here at home in Nevada, folks who wish to participate in the Democratic County Caucuses will enjoy the ability to “same-day” register to participate, while Republican caucus goers will need to have registered at least 10 days prior to the caucus date AND will be required to present a government issued photo ID card … no indication as to which will be allowed and which will not (e.g., will VA photo IDs be accepted?).
Ex-Gov turned Democrat Charlie Crist announced a run for U.S. House
On Tuesday, ex-Gov. Charlie Crist announced that he would run for the St. Petersburg FL-13 seat. Crist said all the way back in July that he’d run for this seat if he lived in it after redistricting, so this announcement was no surprise. However, Republican Rep. David Jolly, who is leaving this district behind to run for the Senate, unexpectedly crashed what would have otherwise been a routine campaign kickoff. Jolly told reporters that he cares too much about the seat “to lay down and let this huckster walk into office.” Republicans utterly hate Crist, who left the party in 2010, so this kind of stunt certainly won’t hurt Jolly’s chances in the GOP primary. If Crist wins, he’ll be one of only a few ex-governors to be elected to the House. The University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog finds that in the last half-century, only four other ex-governors have done this, and none of them had run a state anywhere near as large as Florida.
Meanwhile in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus is vowing not to play nice —all this at a crucial time when some pretty critical votes will need to be taken:
A vote will be needed to pass a fiscal budget, not yet another let’s kick the can down the road continuing resolution to extend the current (previous) budget that was passed, and
A vote will be needed regarding the Iran Deal, which the US and other foreign nations have already begun to implement regardless of any approval/disapproval from our disfunctional Congress.
November should prove quite interesting. But, if all of that that is not enough agitprop for your tastes, Speaker Boehner is proposing that it’s possible that they could actually “repeal Obamacare” by the end of the year. What is he smoking, drinking or otherwise ingesting? Apparently he thinks President Obama is just gonna roll over and sign onto their repeal efforts taking away any and all opportunities for millions of Americans to be able to purchase health care insurance. Somebody needs to throw some ice water in his face and yell “Wake Up Bozo!”
Rep. Paul Ryan announces speaker bid, with conditions. NYT: “…Ryan called for … an end to the antics of ‘bomb throwers and hand wringers,’ according to members in the room … He suggested that he wanted an answer by Friday. Mr. Ryan made it clear that he would not accede to preconditions set by ‘one group,’ a clear reference to the members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus…”
Freedom Caucus resists. Politico: “They were dismissive of his Ryan’s request that they relinquish a procedural tactic they used to threaten to strip outgoing Speaker John Boehner of his title – one of the most potent weapons in the group’s arsenal.”
The Latest House GOP Meltdown Has Been A Long Time Coming, And It’s Not Just About Them
The same tumultuous group that led the Republican Party to control the House of Representatives is now at the center of the latest and most public display of Republican dysfunction, or as Rep. Peter King (R-NY) calls it, “a banana republic.” Amidst absurd infighting in the House over Planned Parenthood funding, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was more or less forced to announce his future resignation, leaving the GOP needing to find the next Speaker. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was the favorite to replace Boehner, until he unexpectedly and dramatically dropped out yesterday afternoon, leading members of Congress to openly weep and pronounce their caucus has hit “rock bottom.”
The media frenzy surrounding these events has focused on intrigue like it is an episode of “House of Cards.” Was there something behind why McCarthy took himself out of the running? Will Paul Ryan step up and run for speaker despite repeatedly pledging not to? But here’s what is much more important: this self-inflicted leadership breakdown is just one more chapter in a story of House Republican recklessness – and their own caucus hasn’t been the only victim. House GOP dysfunction has resulted in a string of harmful policies and American families have paid the price. Here are just a few examples:
The GOP orchestrated the reckless government shutdown in 2013 which had a devastating impact on our economy. Republican leaders bowed to the will of their extreme right wing to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act. The shutdown lost Americans at least 120,000 jobs, prevented sick Americans from enrolling in clinical trials, forced Head Start programs for children to shut down, stalled veterans’ disability claims, delayed $4 billion in tax returns for Americans, and severely hurt small businesses. Overall, S&P estimates that the Republicans cost the United States economy a whopping $24 billion with their shutdown.
The GOP has repeatedly used the debt ceiling to manufacture crises. In order to maintain the full faith and credit of the United States and avoid global economic collapse, Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling from time to time. Yet, GOP leaders have repeatedly joined with their unyielding Tea Party caucus to manipulate these once run-of-the-mill debt ceiling increases for their own gain. In 2011, the GOP threatened to force the United States into a default – to “crash the global economy,” as Timeput it – which was only averted after both sides agreed to $1.2 trillion in economically damaging sequestration cuts. This behavior led to a U.S. credit rating downgrade. In 2013, the GOP used this brinksmanship again to attempt to make cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicare, and the SNAP food program, again putting the credit-worthiness of the United States in jeopardy.
The GOP also used a manufactured crisis to force sequestration cuts that are still hurting the economy today. The Republican-induced sequester disproportionately hurt low-income and middle class families. It led to significant cuts to funding for education, small business, and health research. Sequestration overall will cause approximately 1.8 million people to lose their jobs.
Clearly, the GOP’s inability to control their own party has already caused a lot of damage to our economy and the well-being of American taxpayers. And yet, as their conference devolves again into chaos, they have no inclination to change their backwards policies or irresponsible behavior. They have no plans to avert the upcoming shutdown or increase the debt ceiling, even though the United States could default on its obligations if Congress doesn’t act by November 5th. House Republicans are not only distracted by their internal pandemonium, going into the upcoming budget negotiations they remain committed to the backwards, policy ideas and reckless political strategy that have caused so many problems for themselves, but more importantly for the American people.
BOTTOM LINE: The GOP’s current state of disarray has been a long time coming. The party’s leadership gave in to a minority of its members who are devoted to pushing devastating cuts to working-and middle-class families in pursuit of rigid and impractical ideological principles. The result has been a government in a state of perpetual dysfunction. And while House Republicans may be paying the price with negative news coverage, it is American families who pay the real price of their extreme policies.
The House of Representative is in chaos. John Boehner announced his intention to step down as Speaker at the end of the month. There doesn’t appear to be anyone to take his place. The leading candidate, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, abruptly withdrew from the race yesterday. Another popular choice, Paul Ryan, says he’s not interested.What happened? How did we get to this point? One document, produced by the House Freedom Caucus, holds all the answers. Framed as a “questionnaire” the document effectively makes it impossible for any candidate to both: (1) Get elected speaker, and (2) Not send the entire country (and maybe the world) over a cliff.
Why the Freedom Caucus has so much power
The House Freedom Caucus, a relatively new group of about 40 Republicans loosely associated with the Tea Party, has an extraordinary amount of power in this process. Any potential speaker needs the support of 218 Republicans on the floor of the House. There are currently 247 Republicans in the House. That’s a large majority but without the Freedom Caucus, no candidate can get to 218.
What the Freedom Caucus says they want
The Freedom Caucus says they are just fighting for arcane rule changes that will enhance “democracy” in the House. On CNN yesterday, David Brat, a prominent member of the Freedom Caucus outlined his criteria for a new speaker. (You may remember Brat for his surprise victory over Eric Cantor, the man many assumed would replace Boehner as speaker.)
Anyone that ensures a fair process for all sides. That’s what we are all looking for, right… We’ve shown principle. We are waiting for leadership candidates to put in writing moves that ensure you have a democratic process within our own conference. That is what everyone is waiting to see. And it’s got to be in writing, ahead of time for that to be credible.
Sounds perfectly reasonable, right?
What the Freedom Caucus actually wants
Yesterday, Politico published the House Freedom Caucus “questionnaire”which it described as pushing for “House rule changes.” The document does do that. But it also does a lot more. It seeks substantive commitments from the next speaker that would effectively send the entire country into a tailspin.
For example, the document seeks a commitment from the next speaker to tie any increase in the debt ceiling to cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is extremely unpopular, even among Republicans. These programs are sacrosanct to most Democratic members of Congress. There is effectively no chance that President Obama or Senate Democrats — both of whom would need to support such legislation — would agree to “structural entitlement reforms” in the next month under these kind of conditions.
The House Freedom Caucus essentially wants to make it impossible for the next speaker to raise the debt ceiling. But that is just the beginning.
The House Freedom Caucus also wants the next speaker to commit to numerous conditions on any agreement to avoid a government shutdown:
The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to not funding the government at all unless President Obama (and Senate Democrats) agree to defund Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and a host of other priorities. This is essentially the Ted Cruz strategy which prompted at 16-day shutdown in 2013. They’re demanding to have this now be enshrined as the official policy of the Speaker of The House.
The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to oppose any “omnibus” bill that would keep the government running. Rather, funding for each aspect of government could only be approved by separate bills. This would allow the Republicans to attempt to finance certain favored aspects of government (the military), while shuttering ones they view as largely unnecessary (education, health).
Why McCarthy thinks the House might be ungovernable
For McCarthy, the document helps explain why he dropped out of the race. If he doesn’t agree to the demands of the House Freedom Caucus, he cannot secure enough votes to become speaker. But if he does agree to their demands, he will unable to pass legislation that is necessary to avoid disastrous consequences for the country.
Top Republicans are calling Paul Ryan and begging him to be speaker. But thus far, he hasn’t agreed to run. None of the candidates currently running appear to have substantial support.
The agenda of the House Freedom Caucus makes a difficult job effectively impossible. Agreeing to their demands means presiding over a period of unprecedented dysfunction in the United States.
Even if a candidate was able to become speaker without formally agreeing to the Freedom Caucus’ most extreme requirements, one would still have to deal with the group — and a larger group of House Republicans sympathetic to them — in order to get anything done.
This is why Boehner wanted out and why no one really wants to take his place.
New Analysis Of Jeb’s Tax Plan Details Massive Tax Giveaways To Wealthiest Americans
Yesterday, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush released a tax plan that he pledged would “unleash 4% growth.” Bush took pains to emphasize that his plan would benefit working families, much like many of his opponents for the Republican nomination. But a new Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis has crunched the numbers, and despite Bush’s rhetoric, the reality is that his new tax plan is a huge giveaway to the country’s wealthiest at the expense of everyone else.
The facts are that Bush’s tax plan:
Cuts the Top Tax Rates for the Wealthy Few: Under the Bush plan, the top tax rate would be capped at 28 percent, or a nearly one-third drop from the 39.6 percent top rate in the law now. Cutting top tax rates would mean a huge tax windfall for the wealthiest taxpayers—and could exacerbate rising economic inequality while doing nothing to spur economic growth. The analysis supporting Bush’s plan obscures this massive giveaway for high incomes by only looking at the tax plan’s impact on people earning up to $250,000.
Slashes the Corporate Tax Rate and Other Corporate Taxes: The Bush tax plan also proposes dropping the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from the current rate of 35 percent. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the top 20 percent of income earners effectively pay almost four-fifths of the country’s corporate taxes, while the bottom 80 percent of households pays just 21.4 percent. Nearly half of the corporate tax burden—48.7 percent—falls on the top 1 of households alone. No surprise here: corporate ownership is concentrated among high-income households, so cutting taxes on corporations would be a very large giveaway to the wealthy.
Lowers Tax Rates on Capital Gains and Dividends: Bush is also pitching to lower the top tax rate on capital gains and dividends, from 23.8 percent to 20 percent. Income from capital gains and dividends goes overwhelmingly to the wealthy. CAP has previously shown that a lower tax rate on dividends and capital gains is one of the ways the U.S. tax code helps those who are wealthy enough to own capital accumulate even more wealth, worsening income inequality. Jeb’s tax plan would go even farther.
The problems with the tax plan don’t end there. All these tax cuts for the rich will be costly. Even the four conservative economists who wrote a white paper defending the Bush plan say so. They say the plan will add $1.2 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years, using a vague model that presupposes significant economic growth resulting from the plan. When using a more traditional way of evaluating the plan, these same conservative economists say it would cost an astounding $3.4 trillion— that is about $45,946 per child under 18 in the United States.
Additionally, the tax plan’s supporters have vastly inflated claims of the economic growth it would create. We know from Jeb’s brother George W. that substantial tax cuts, combined with slashed regulations as Jeb has also promised but not specified yet, do not result in the booming economy we are promised. This tired rationale for selling tax cuts should not be used again after it has been consistently debunked. But it’s what we are getting from Jeb’s economic advisors, two of which were also advisors to his brother.
We aren’t alone in exposing Jeb’s tax plan for what it is. The New York Times calls the plan a “large tax cut for the wealthiest” and estimates that taxpayers who earned over $10 million dollars in 2013 would have saved an average of $1.5 million with this tax plan in place.
BOTTOM LINE: Though Jeb Bush and his Super PAC have boasted the theme of a “right to rise” as a central campaign message, his tax plan proves that his policy priorities are squarely focused on improving the fortunes of the country’s wealthiest—even though everyone else will be left with the bill. We’ve seen how much that fails most Americans, and how it fails our economy overall. We need policies that help working families by growing the economy from the middle-out, not the top down.
Before you start believing the drivel Republicans are spreading about rising deficits, maybe you need to understand the difference between two terms that are frequently used in error: overall National Debt and the Federal Budget Deficit. Republicans are counting on 93% of the population apparently not understanding that there’s a difference between the two.
Let me start by explaining both terms from a family budget perspective. If you have a monthly income of $1000.oo, but you have bills and expenses of $1,200.00, you have a $200.00 “budget deficit” that most folks will have to carry on a credit card, hoping to pay it off during the upcoming month. If on the other hand, you continue having $200.00 deficits for months on end, the deficit remains at $200, but your household debt begins to rise on that credit card by $200.00 (plus interest) each month. So, in 12 months, the budget deficit is $200, but the household debt is $2400 (plus interest).
Well, the Federal Budget Deficit and the National Debt work the same way, but the Federal Budget Deficit is NOT rising as the Republicans would have you believe. It’s dropping dramatically. Yes, the National Debt is still rising because we still have a budgetary deficit, but the Federal Budget Deficits have dropped dramatically since the end of the 2009 fiscal year:
Now that you better understand the difference between the two terms, the next time your crazy wingnut friend tries to echo the Republican mantra that deficits are rising, please take the time to educate them. If all else fails, please tell them they deserve a lengthy time-out in some dank corner.
By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.
But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on the spending side, one on the revenue side. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.
You might be tempted to shrug this off, since these budgets will not, in fact, become law. Or you might say that this is what all politicians do. But it isn’t. The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty …
U.S. Congressman Tom Price, House Budget Committee chairman and lead author of the House budget blueprint, speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)
Revealing their commitment to ravaging critical safety net programs while accommodating corporations and the ultra-wealthy, the Republican-controlled House unveiled on Tuesday a budget proposal (pdf) that would undermine both Social Security and Medicare, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and prioritize tax cuts for the one percent—all while boosting defense spending.
The U.S. Senate, also majority Republican, is expected to introduce similar legislation on Wednesday.
According to news reports, the initial proposals, authored by House Budget Committee chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Senate Budget Committee chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), seek to balance the federal budget over 10 years, without raising taxes. To achieve those goals, the plans are expected to include $5 trillion in cuts to domestic programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, over the course of the next decade.
It would provide $90 billion in additional war funding—much more than the $51 billion proposed by President Barack Obama—while pushing cuts to renewable energy incentives and climate change programs and repealing parts of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
And, as Sahil Kapur writes for Talking Points Memo, “the budget sets the stage for a showdown next year on Social Security.”
The New York Timesnotes that the proposal “leans heavily on the policy prescriptions that Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin outlined when he was budget chairman”—prescriptions that were blasted at the time as “a path to more adversity.”
Price, like previous Budget Committee chairmen in both parties, is using his proposal to push an aggressive policy agenda that is far broader than a simple focus on spending and deficits. Like the Ryan budgets of previous years, Price sees government as the cause of economic problems in the country and seeks to rein in federal spending — and power — by shifting programs back to state control or eliminating them outright.
For instance, the Budget Committee notes that there are 92 different anti-poverty programs, 17 food aid programs and 22 housing assistance programs. Similar overlaps have been found in federal job-training progams, it says. Price recommends eliminating or reducing many of these programs. The maximum award under Pell grants would be frozen for a decade, helping slow the huge increases in college costs. Regulations required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial services reform law are also being targeted as needlessly burdensome on the financial services industry and slowing economic growth.
The austere budget plan drew immediate criticism from many corners.
“There should be no compromise from the Democratic minority on any of this,” political analyst Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire. “It should be rejected, root and branch, because it is based on an economic philosophy, and an overall view of the relationship between people and their government, that has failed the country and its people savagely in the past and inevitably will do so again.”
In his breakdown of intra-party budget battles, Dave Johnson of the Campaign for America’s Future noted that despite any splits over specifics, the governing majority has one common desire.
“All of these Republican factions want the government cut back,” Johnson wrote. “None of them care about investing in infrastructure, investing in science, investing in education, expanding health care and safety-net programs for people who need it, or otherwise helping the public.”
Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress joined in calling on Congress to reject the proposal.
“Republicans are talking big with respect to tackling income inequality and wage stagnation, but the House budget proposal does not match their rhetoric,” she said. “Rather than creating jobs with investments in infrastructure and education or strengthening health care and nutrition programs to give families a foothold to climb into the middle class, the House majority has once again prioritized big tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations.”
In USA Today on Monday, journalist Nicole Gaudiano reported that Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who may run for president in 2016, plans to fight the GOP budget plan tooth and nail.
Sanders, she wrote, said he wants to take next year’s budget resolution in a “radically different” direction from the one preferred by House and Senate Republicans, declaring: “I’m going to work as hard as I can with other progressive members of the Senate to do everything we can to make sure this budget is not balanced on the backs of working families and low-income Americans.”
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