WASHINGTON (PAI)–Brushing aside dissent and objections from unions, workers and the Democratic minority, the House’s ruling Republicans jammed through a GOP-written budget blueprint for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, by a 219-205 vote on Apr. 10. Democrats opposed it 193-0. Solons then scattered for a 2-week recess.
The blueprint sets priorities for legislators as they start writing actual money bills for government programs. It also has recommendations on other legislation, starting with – again – repeal of the Affordable Care Act with nothing to replace it.
Like prior GOP-written budgets, this blueprint also orders deep cuts in Medicaid and replaces Medicare with a voucher. It would raise the minimum age for Medicare to 67. The budget blueprint would also cut food stamps, job training, student aid and other domestic programs. And the GOP would cut federal workers’ pay by 5.5 percent and says feds would get 401(k) accounts, not regular pensions.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., listed federal pay and benefits among “identified waste,” in his opening address. He also claimed his blueprint would bring the overall federal budget into balance in a decade.
Union leaders said Ryan’s budget blueprint is heavily weighted towards the rich and against the middle class, workers and the poor:
Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry: While Ryan’s budget “is not a joke, it certainly is foolish. It’s foolish to think that any of the extremist proposals peppered throughout his budget will help our economy or the millions of Americans who are struggling to get by.”
Besides repealing the health care act, turning Medicare into vouchers and cutting corporate taxes, the GOP budget “caps spending for critical services millions rely upon, scales back financial regulations, reduces access to job training programs, reduces access to higher education,” turns food stamps into a block grant “and the list goes on,” Henry said. “For these and many other reasons, this is truly a terrible and hurtful budget proposal. Ryan put forward a budget that asks everyone to make sacrifices except for the wealthy and corporations.”
AFGE President J. David Cox: “What’s another term for an insatiable monster hell-bent on savagely devouring everything in its sight? The Ryan budget. Each year this monster gets hungrier, bolder, and more pitiless against its prey, the VA nursing assistants, Border Patrol agents, Social Security claims representatives, Defense Department weapons repair technicians, and EPA scientists who make up the federal workforce…It’s morally repulsive and fiscally dishonest.
“The message: If you’re a young person thinking about a career in public service, the Ryan budget would pay you far less than your parents earned for the same work. If you’re in the middle of a career devoted to caring for wounded soldiers in a VA hospital, tighten your belt a few more notches, because frozen pay was just the beginning. Now they’ll cut an additional 5.5 percent of salary,” said Cox, a retired VA nurse.
“And for new and current employees alike, a promise that you’ll be forced to do the work of three employees, as only one of every three who retire will ever be replaced. Too bad if you care about food safety; one USDA inspector would be responsible for doing the work previously done by three.”
AFGE also highlighted other harms, to federal workers and the entire country, in the GOP budget blueprint. They included eliminating student loan reimbursements, a $791 billion cut, compared to this year, in non-defense spending, a cut in benefits for federal workers injured on the job, and more privatizing of airport screeners. Pell grants for low-income college students would drop by $125 billion and new federal workers would not get regular pensions, but 401(k)-style accounts.
AFSCME: The GOP budget “cuts are even deeper and more harmful to pay for big new tax cuts for the wealthy and to boost Pentagon spending,” the union’s legislative staff said. It reported the Budget Committee OKd the GOP blueprint by a party-line vote after rejecting Democratic amendments to – among other things – raise the minimum wage and enact comprehensive immigration reform.
“Spending reductions in this budget of more than $5.1 trillion over the next decade would incapacitate state and local governments, leading to massive cuts in vital public services and enormous job losses that would threaten our fragile economic recovery. The Economic Policy Institute projects the proposal would result in the loss of three million jobs next year. Fully 69 percent of its cuts come from low-income programs while defense spending is increased by $483 billion,” AFSCME said.
“Funding for programs including job training, public education, student loans, child care, infrastructure, health care research and more would be cut by least 24 percent. Job training programs would serve 3.5 million fewer individuals, Head Start would serve 170,000 fewer children, and Title I would serve 3.4 million fewer disadvantaged K-12 students, likely resulting in the loss of 29,000 jobs for teachers and aides.” And Ryan would use all the spending cuts to fund a cut in the top tax rate for the rich from 39.6 percent to 25 percent, while also cutting corporate tax rates to 25 percent, AFSCME said.
Laborers President Terry O’Sullivan called the GOP budget “an April Fool’s joke” as it shortchanges money to repair roads, bridges and mass transit. “The Ryan-Republican budget proposal for ending the duct-tape approach to our nation’s transportation infrastructure simply rips off the tape, without a long-term fix, allowing roads and bridges across the country to become more congested, pot-hole ridden and dangerous,” O’Sullivan said.
“Instead of fully investing in the creation of hundreds of thousands of good construction jobs, his proposal destroys a program necessary to ensure the nation has a robust transportation system. This will be catastrophic to the construction industry and have a damaging ripple effect throughout the economy,” he added. O’Sullivan reiterated transportation unions’ call for a new long-term highway-mass transit-funding bill, paid for by a higher the federal gas tax. The tax, 18.4 cents a gallon, last went up in 1993.
Photo: AFGE Facebook page.