BY ALBIO SIRES This week, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), released yet again another budget with misplaced priorities that will slow our economic recovery and destroy American jobs. Rather than address the priorities of the middle class, the Ryan budget is an attack on American seniors, students, workers, and families- all for the sake of protecting loopholes for the wealthy and corporations that ship jobs overseas.
One of the most destructive provisions of the Ryan budget is how it completely ends the Medicare guarantee as we know it. Instead of focusing on ways to improve Medicare and make it more solvent for future generations, the proposal would turn Medicare into a voucher system, which overtime would increase seniors’ costs by 11 percent up front and shift more of the risk of health cost growth to them over time. Additionally, seniors with traditional Medicare could see their premiums rise by as much as an average of 56 percent. Not only would the budget proposal eliminate the Medicare guarantee, but by repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the budget increases seniors’ prescription drug costs by re-opening the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap, commonly referred to as the “donut hole.” This would mean seniors with high drug costs would pay an average of nearly $12,000 more over the period 2015-2022. Furthermore, by repealing the ACA, it makes seniors spend more on essential preventive health services.
The Ryan budget also increases the inequality gap between the wealthiest one percent and the rest of America. Instead of reducing the deficit by closing breaks for special-interests like those for big oil and overseas tax havens, the proposal makes massive cuts to nutrition programs, health care, and other critical services that give low-income children and families a chance at a decent life. Specifically, it slashes funding for vital programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP/food stamps) and Head Start. It also cuts $732 billion from Medicaid (in addition to repealing the ACA expansion) by turning it into a block grant program; two-thirds of Medicaid spending currently goes to seniors and individuals with disabilities.
Besides the devastating impact that the Ryan budget has directly on individuals, it does nothing to support job creation or our global competitiveness. Investments in both are drastically affected through cuts in funding for transportation and infrastructure projects, as well as funding for research and development. In particular, the budget reduces transportation investments by $52 billion in 2015. It provides virtually no new funding for new transit and highway projects, which if funded, would mean thousands of jobs across the country. It also cuts funding for vital air and rail services, which would impact millions of passengers nationwide. Additionally, by reducing our investments in education, research and innovation, the Ryan plan reduces our commitment to scientific research, and puts college out of reach for millions of students. Specifically, it would make college less affordable for the millions of students who rely on Pell grants, federal student loans, and higher education tax credits- gutting current support for higher education by $205 billion over 10 years. It would also push the United States further behind our global competitors in Europe and Asia when it comes to new developments in health, technology, energy, and manufacturing.
Finally, it does nothing to address the plight of the unemployed in America. Over two million unemployed workers have already been left behind by the Republican leadership’s refusal to extend emergency unemployment benefits, including for 144,300 New Jerseyans. The budget continues this refusal, which will not only hurt affected workers and their families but also cost 200,000 jobs this year.
The Ryan budget puts America on the wrong path and attempts to reduce our deficit solely on the backs of our nation’s most vulnerable. Instead of reducing opportunities for 99 percent of Americans, it is time for this Congress to come together and put forth an economic agenda that provides every hard-working American with a fair shot at success.
Albio Sires, Member of Congress