It is abundantly clear to literate Americans that an anti-poverty program’s primary function is to reduce poverty, so when Paul Ryan released a stinging condemnation of the nation’s anti-poverty programs it was obvious that he is either pro-poverty or had a solution to create good jobs, raise the minimum wage, and alleviate the need for anti-poverty measures. Ryan and Republicans’ thirty-year failed approach to create jobs is giving the rich and corporations a 15% tax cut that will enable more and more corporations to pay nothing in taxes and bring the wealthy’s tax liability closer to zero but do absolutely nothing to reduce poverty or create one job. Since there is nothing whatsoever in Ryan’s latest budget to create jobs, one can conclude he is pro-poverty and according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) that took account of the cuts in his latest budget proposal, the lion’s share of cuts come from anti-poverty programs and will increase the level of poverty in this country to levels unseen since the Great Depression. However, like the Great Depression, the wealthiest Americans will increase their riches through greater tax cuts and the rest of the population will either fall from the middle class or sink deeper into dire poverty.
In a preview of a forthcoming report, the CBPP notes that out of $4.8 trillion in non-defense cuts (Ryan increases defense spending by well over three-quarters if a trillion dollars) 69% of Ryan’s cuts ($3.3 trillion) come from programs that serve people precariously close to or already living in poverty. These lop-sided cuts put an end to any bovine excrement that Ryan is even remotely concerned for the plight of the poor and belies his newfound designation as the compassionate conservative face of the Republican Party. In the past Ryan’s budgets were inaptly named Path to Prosperity, but the latest offering’s apropos title is the Republican Party’s pro-poverty manifesto. The devastatingly barbaric cuts to anti-poverty programs target every low-income demographic and will increase suffering due to lack of medical care, food, education, and specifically targets seniors, children, the disabled, and poverty-wage working families. If nothing else, Ryan deserves credit for completeness for making sure every person close to or already in poverty will fall deeper into destitution, and expands the number of Americans living in poverty.
The largest cuts in Ryan’s budget are for healthcare related programs and it makes the Republican goal very clear; keep the greatest number of Americans in ill-health and without any kind of healthcare coverage whatsoever. Ryan cuts at least $2.7 trillion from Medicaid and subsidies that assist low and moderate-income Americans afford private healthcare insurance that he will use as a partial payment for tax cuts for the rich. Ryan’s plan reveals the Republicans’ goal is preventing at the very least 40 million low and moderate-income Americans, a little over 1 in 8, from having any healthcare coverage within ten years. Ryan claims his budget directly helps people living in poverty and builds great opportunities for the poor to become wealthy, but he clearly intends on providing the poor with an opportunity to die from lack of basic medical care while they wait for “trickle-down” wealth to reach them.
If the pro-poverty manifesto fails to kill off 40 million Americans through disease and ill-health, Ryan’s vaunted compassionate conservatism and regard for the plight of the poor will precipitate their slow starvation. His budget cuts food stamps (SNAP) by $137 billion and is more than the program-ending Draconian food stamp cuts the House passed last September. According to the Congressional budget Office, Ryan’s intent is to force 3.8 million hungry seniors, Veterans, children, and families earning poverty wages completely off the program in 2014 alone. The food stamp program then faces much deeper cuts when Republicans convert SNAP to block grants that allow Republican-controlled states to use the money as they see fit; more likely than not for tax cuts for the rich and corporations as has been their wont.
To make sure Americans living in poverty will never have the opportunity to increase their chances of finding jobs that pay more than poverty wages, Ryan cuts $125 billion from Pell Grants that help low income students afford higher education by cutting eligibility, repealing mandatory Pell Grant funding, and freezing grant amounts even though they barely cover a third of the cost to attend college. It is noteworthy that Paul Ryan benefitted from federal government assistance to attend college, so he knows the importance of help to earn a college education that his Ayn Rand sensibilities will not allow for other Americans because he does hate “takers.”
Ryan’s budget also cuts an additional $385 billion from many mandatory programs for low-income Americans such as Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled, the school lunch and child nutrition programs, and the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits for lower and middle-income working families. As if to add insult to injury, sickness, hunger, lack of education, and hungry school children, Ryan adds $250 billion in cuts on top of the discretionary caps included in the Republican sequester. None of the devastating cuts include privatizing Medicare that will burden seniors with added healthcare costs or the cuts to pensions Republicans yearn for to force middle-class Americans into poverty when they retire.
All of Ryan’s cuts will increase the suffering and misery of Americans already struggling in poverty, but one aspect the CPBB did not account for were the millions of jobs cuts to anti-poverty programs will destroy. Just cuts to food stamps alone will decimate millions of jobs as every dollar spent for food stamps returns at least $1.70 in economic benefits that create and sustain jobs. Republicans have not been averse to killing millions of jobs with budget cuts over the past three years and there is no reason to believe they will despair over killing a few million more, especially as a value-added bonus of forcing more Americans into poverty.
It is true that Ryan’s budget will never get past the Senate or President Obama’s veto pen, and reports are that several teabaggers and Republicans in the House will not vote for Ryan’s budget because it is far too generous and does not completely eliminate anti-poverty programs or tax revenue to starve the federal government into bankruptcy and foreclosure. However, Republicans are sending the American people a very strong message that they are pro-poverty and have every intent to follow Ryan’s recommendation to eliminate anti-poverty programs and use the funds to increase defense spending and partially fund tax cuts for the rich.
Republicans and Democrats just passed a two-year budget that gave Ryan greater spending cuts than any of his previous budgets, but it did not kill enough jobs, starve enough already hungry Americans, or prevent millions from access to medical care as Ryan’s newest pro-poverty manifesto. The tragedy of Ryan’s proposal is that Republican supporters across the country heralded the budget as another path to prosperity that if enacted will transform the entire nation into what the Southern United States has been for five years; a third world nation inhabited by a population living in poverty. However, millions and millions of Republican voters should rejoice that Ryan’s budget included protection for a few hundred wealthy families from sick and hungry peasants by a military that just got a three-quarters-of-a-trillion dollar budget increase.