By Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.) - 04/06/11 11:52 PM EDT
Republicans say government is the source of our economic problems and the solution is to cut spending, cut taxes and cut retirement for seniors. Republicans use the specter of a debt and deficit to justify this spin and, when pinning the blame, ignore the fact that the biggest debt increase in history occurred under President Bush – who raised the debt to $10.7 trillion from $5.727 trillion.
Our national debt and deficits need to be dealt with; the question is how. As a House Budget Committee member, I am troubled by the tack Republicans take under Congressman Paul Ryan’s leadership. Ryan’s 2012-2020 budget essentially ends Medicare and Medicaid and starves education, research and development, transportation, clean energy and infrastructure programs.
This inequality is corrosive. Among the world’s richest countries, America has the highest inequality and the worst rates of life expectancy, social mobility, violence, infant mortality, obesity, literacy, homicides, incarceration, teenage pregnancy, mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction. This is unacceptable and unsustainable.
Ryan exacerbates these problems. In an attack on seniors, Ryan’s plan, which Wall Street Journal reports would essentially end Medicare, increases costs for seniors and reduces benefits. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the plan reduces what each senior receives and forces seniors to face higher premiums in the private market for similar benefits. Ryan’s comparable blow to Medicaid reduces benefits and eligibility and results in serious repercussions for millions who rely on Medicaid for critical care. Ryan ridicules America’s majority, who in recent polls said cuts to Medicare and Medicaid are unacceptable.
In an attack on working families, Ryan protects America’s wealthiest 2 percent and corporations by reducing their fair share of taxes. (One year of corporate giveaways and tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent equals $185.2 billion, or three times what the GOP’s 2011 budget cuts save.) Ryan allows U.S. multinationals to bring home $1 trillion in profits at reduced tax rates. Billionaires and millionaires should be giving to charity, not receiving it.
We can defend the American dream, put America back to work, ensure fairness for working-class families and reduce the debt and deficit, but Ryan’s proposal fails on all counts. I have been working with my Congressional Progressive Caucus colleagues, economists and tax policy experts to develop a budget that eliminates the deficit (which Ryan fails to do), puts America to work building a competitive economy, invests in our schools, brings the troops home, protects social security and represents a fair deal for working families.
America has stacked the deck against working people. Our budget reverses this trend while cutting $1 trillion in waste. We make the tax code fair, asking the wealthiest individuals, corporations hiding money overseas, oil companies raking in record profits and Wall Street banks that gambled away our money to pay their fair share. We fix roads, bridges and waterways, we build a world-class high-speed rail system and broadband, we end our addiction to oil and the endless wars that come with it, we meet our obligations to seniors and we educate our children for the global workforce.
Our budget does all this while eliminating the deficit and reducing debt burden. This is the America that lies within grasp, if we stop accepting the spin and start saving this country from itself.
Honda is a member of the House Budget Committee and Congressional Progressive Caucus.