The proposed 2012 Republican budget, released Tuesday by Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.), would wipe out critical social programs crafted over many decades to protect the most vulnerable and safeguard the middle-class. Two-thirds, or $2.9 trillion, of the proposed cuts come from low-income programs — including Medicaid, food stamps, low-income housing, Pell grants, job training and many other programs important for the country’s economic recovery.
Other parts of the proposed Republican budget would slash funding in virtually every other major category and reduce spending by $6.2 trillion over the next decade. The ideology behind this budget proposal reveals that the Republican Party’s leadership really does want to fulfill Grover Norquist’s dream of shrinking government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
The White House and Democratic leaders need to be prepared to wage an all-out battle to save these programs — especially if they expect to prevail in next year’s elections. Women and seniors will decide whether to show up at the polls at all depending on the outcome.
Notably, in 2010 the Democrats failed to attract the winning 13 percent margin of women voters that elected President Obama and kept Democratic control of Congress in 2008. That margin of women voters would have staved off the Republican extremist take-over of the House in the last midterms — an important lesson for 2012.
Among those parts of the Republican proposal that most affect women is a conversion of Medicare into a voucher system, where seniors would have to pay more out-of-pocket expenses. In addition, Medicaid would be converted into a block grant program, placing more burden on the states and the poor. Medicaid is the largest federal program helping low-income women obtain reproductive health services. Ryan’s budget also cuts off Medicaid support for nursing homes, which serve many aged and often disabled low-income women.
Equally onerous is the “fast-track” path that Republicans would use to force benefit cuts in Social Security, including cuts proposed in the Alan Simpson-Erskine Bowles plan that changes benefit formulas and increases the retirement age to 69. Currently, anyone earning more than $106,800 does not pay Social Security taxes on income above that level. Republicans would reject raising this cap, even though it would solve Social Security’s long-range financing challenge.
What is really obscene about the Republican plan is that it proposes even more tax cuts for millionaires, corporations and special interests, reducing the personal income tax rate from an already low 35 percent to 25 percent. In addition, the plan does not touch the enormous Department of Defense budget, which would total $671 billion for 2012.
It is increasingly clear that our country stands at a pivotal moment in history. Above all, we need responsible leadership to stare down an out-of-control right wing. The White House and the Democratic leadership must stand up for simple justice: Force the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, protect the middle class and help the most vulnerable. Failure to maintain those basic tenets is no “compromise” — it is simply a failure.