GOP-Ryan budget slashes Medicare, college aid and stirs voter anger

Lawmakers returned to the nation’s capital this week with their ears still ringing from voter anger at the so-called Paul Ryan budget narrowly approved by the House just before spring recess.

It would slash non-defense spending in the coming decade by $5 trillion, cutting to the bone every vital human needs program while increasing Pentagon spending by $500 billion.

The Ryan plan would also end Medicare as we know it, turning it into a voucher and putting profiteering private insurance companies in charge of senior citizen’s health care.

On April 10, the House voted 219 to 205 for the Ryan budget with the Democrats voting unanimously against. They were joined by 12 Republicans in voting “No.”

The Republicans rammed it through even though a bipartisan budget plan drawn up by Rep. Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in December already laid out spending targets for the current fiscal year making a new budget unnecessary. The Democratic majority Senate is hardly likely to approve it.

Even so, the House Republicans demanded a chance to vote on their “steal from the poor, give to the rich” budget scheme as an election-year ploy. The tea party Republicans feigned anger that the Ryan budget does not go “far enough” in slashing programs like food stamps, already cut by $8.6 billion.

Ironically, the Democrats believe the Ryan budget has dramatically improved their chances of turning out the voters in this November’s midterm elections to win a net gain of 17 House seats to regain majority control of the House.

Distributed to Democratic House members when they returned to Washington was a memo titled “Battleground: The Middle Class” by Steve Israel, the Democratic Congressional Committee chairman. Israel writes that Ryan and his budget are “politically toxic” and “one of the defining issues of the midterm elections.”

Just hours after his budget squeaked through the House, Ryan delivered a speech to the GOP’s Lincoln Dinner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Standing outside was a crowd of picketers. Norm Sterzenbach, a retired union electrical worker, told reporters that Ryan’s scheme to privatize Medicare will sharply escalate “out of pocket health care costs,” adding, “Personally, I’m scared of what it would mean to my health care and the health of other Iowans.”

Sterzenbach also denounced Ryan’s plan to repeal Obamacare and reopen the infamous “doughnut hole” in the Prescription Drug Program. Obamacare closed that hole.

In Marquette, Mich., Rep. Dan Benishek, a Republican who voted in favor of the Ryan budget, also faced the music from his constituents. A crowd gathered in the freezing cold and snow outside his office with placards that proclaimed, “Ryan Budget: Path to Failure” and “Ryan Budget = College Collapse.” Another placard held by a young protester read simply, “Down With Dan!”

Said Susan Dejong, a retiree living on Social Security and Medicare, “The Ryan budget begins to dismantle Medicare as we know it. Medicare is a good program. It’s effective. It’s comprehensive. And I just don’t feel that they should mess with Medicare.”

Nolan Craft, recently elected Vice President of the College Young Democrats at nearby Northern Michigan University, told a reporter, “Benishek supports the Ryan budget and that will affect students in a really negative way. It will halt Pell Grants for ten years and we’ll have to start paying interest on our student loans immediately. We’re out here to stop that…”

Lee Saunders, president of the 1.6 million member American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, said, “Yet again, the House GOP has voted for a budget that hurts families, kills jobs, and would send the economy back into a tailspin. Only the corporations and the wealthy benefit from its wide open tax loopholes and additional tax breaks.”

He pointed out that the Republican-majority House turned thumbs down on alternative budgets proposed by Democratic House members and by the Black Caucus and Progressive Caucus. Those alternatives, Saunders added, would have strengthened Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security while bringing in tens of billions in added federal revenues by closing tax loopholes on the banks and corporations and imposing fair taxes on the wealthy.

At the same time, the House blocked a vote on a Senate-approved measure to restore unemployment benefits for two million long-term unemployed. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the Ryan budget, if enacted, would destroy three million jobs.

Fox News commentator Juan Williams asked rhetorically if the Democrats could win back the House next Nov. 5. His answer: “Yes.”

Writes Williams, “The Democrat’s biggest advantage is that they are running against Republicans … House Republicans just passed a budget with cuts to education and savings from making Medicare a private plan. Basically, the House GOP in their preoccupation with the far right, just handed the Democrats a great weapon for beating up House Republicans in the fall races.”

Photo: Protesting Rep. Paul Ryan, speaking in Kenosha, Wis.,  April 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)



Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler estimates he has written 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper. He lives in Sequim, Wash., in the home he shared with his beloved late wife Joyce Wheeler. His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a kind of history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view.