By Eric Wolfe
Bold proposal or sick joke?
The Republican budget proposal sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan and passed by the U.S. House on April 15, has been called both.
For sure, there are big winners and big losers. You can be pretty sure that you and almost everyone you know will not be among the winners.
The House budget ends Medicare. Oh, it might keep the name, but as a guaranteed program of health care for seniors, Medicare would be finished. Instead of guaranteed care when you’re old and need it, you’d get a check to help you buy health insurance in the open market.
Good luck with that! Oh, and it turns out the amount of the subsidy is matched to general inflation, not medical inflation. So as medical costs continue to outpace general inflation, you will be invited to suck it up and pay more. A lot more.
But remember, I said there are winners, too.
For example, the House Republican budget keeps $40 billion in tax loopholes for oil companies. Hooray! Everone knows the oil companies sooo need the help. Too bad about the funding for clean energy technologies–which the Republican budget completely eliminates. But hey, somebody’s got to pay so that the oil companies can be winners. The biggest oil companies together recorded $35 billion in profits for the first quarter of 2011, according to recent Senate hearings.
And there are other winners in the House budget, too. Remember those tax cuts for the wealthy that were supposed to be temporary? The Republicans voted to make them permanent. The Tax Policy Center found that the House budget plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half.
At least there’s a trickle-down benefit for the rest of us, right? Oops, sorry. Even as it slashes taxes for oil companies and the richest people on the planet, the House budget would raise taxes for 95% of the population. That’s you and me, baby.
Like I say, winners and losers.
But how about that debt? Don’t we have to do something about it? Duh. But what? It’s so hard to figure out where all that debt came from.
Actually, no it isn’t. Bush-era tax cuts for the rich are a huge part of the deficit, as the chart at right makes clear. And those fat breaks for the fat cats already look to be the biggest and fastest-growing part of the debt going forward.
Under the House Republican budget plan, that situation would get worse. Much worse. The plan calls for $2.9 trillion in additional tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy.
Republicans, as always, claim that tax cuts for the rich will stimulate the economy because the rich will go out and buy so many new yachts. That’s the same argument they made 10 years ago when Bush slashed taxes on the rich as soon as he became president.
And how has that worked out for us? No net increase in jobs during Bush’s entire presidency, a broken housing market, criminal enterprises operating on Wall Street, the largest concentration of income in the hands of the wealthy since the Great Depression…
Like I say, winners and losers.
Fortunately the U.S. Senate, with a small Democratic majority, rejected the House Republican budget. But now Republicans are threatening to throw our nation into default if they don’t get more cuts in programs and more tax breaks for the rich.
Economists warn that even the threat of a default could send our economy into a new tailspin. I suppose there will be winners and losers in that situation, too. Which group do you think we’ll be in?
Eric Wolfe is Communications Director, IBEW Local 1245.