President Barack Obama delivered remarks today in which he slammed the budget advanced by Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), supported by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and passed by House Republicans. Obama referred to the budget as a “Trojan Horse” and “thinly veiled social Darwinism.” He also chided Republicans for irresponsibly stranding seniors and the middle class by making huge cuts to the social safety net and other public investments. Excerpts from the speech appear below.
Before slamming the Ryan-Romney budget, Obama provided some context on the budget:
... [F]or much of the last century, we have been having the same argument with folks who keep peddling some version of trickle-down economics. They keep telling us that if we’d convert more of our investments in education and research and health care into tax cuts—especially for the wealthy—our economy will grow stronger. They keep telling us that if we’d just strip away more regulations, and let businesses pollute more and treat workers and consumers with impunity, that somehow we’d all be better off. We’re told that when the wealthy become even wealthier, and corporations are allowed to maximize their profits by whatever means necessary, it’s good for America, and that their success will automatically translate into more jobs and prosperity for everybody else. That’s the theory.
... [W]e’ve tried their approach—on a massive scale. ... The wealthy got wealthier—we would expect that. ... But prosperity sure didn’t trickle down. Instead, during the last decade, we had the slowest job growth in half a century. And the typical American family actually saw their incomes fall by about 6 percent, even as the economy was growing….
... [Y]ou would think that after the results of this experiment in trickle-down economics ... that the proponents of this theory might show some humility, might moderate their views a bit. You’d think they’d say, you know what, maybe some rules and regulations are necessary to protect the economy and prevent people from being taken advantage of by insurance companies or credit card companies or mortgage lenders. Maybe, just maybe, at a time of growing debt and widening inequality, we should hold off on giving the wealthiest Americans another round of big tax cuts. Maybe when we know that most of today’s middle-class jobs require more than a high school degree, we shouldn’t gut education, or lay off thousands of teachers, or raise interest rates on college loans, or take away people’s financial aid.
But that’s exactly the opposite of what they’ve done. Instead of moderating their views even slightly, the Republicans running Congress right now have doubled down, and proposed a budget so far to the right it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal. In fact ... Newt Gingrich, first called the original version of the budget ‘radical’ and said it would contribute to ‘right-wing social engineering.’ This is coming from Newt Gingrich.
And yet, this isn’t a budget supported by some small rump group in the Republican Party. This is now the party’s governing platform. This is what they’re running on. One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar version of this plan from last year would be introduced as a bill on day one of his presidency. He said that he’s ‘very supportive’ of this new budget, and he even called it ‘marvelous’...
He then explained the dramatically negative impact the Ryan-Romney budget would have:
So here’s what this ‘marvelous’ budget does. Back in the summer, I came to an agreement with Republicans in Congress to cut roughly $1 trillion in annual spending. ...This new House Republican budget, however, breaks our bipartisan agreement and proposes massive new cuts in annual domestic spending—exactly the area where we’ve already cut the most. And I want to actually go through what it would mean for our country if these cuts were to be spread out evenly. So bear with me. I want to go through this—because I don’t think people fully appreciate the nature of this budget.
The year after next, nearly 10 million college students would see their financial aid cut by an average of more than $1,000 each. There would be 1,600 fewer medical grants, research grants for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS. There would be 4,000 fewer scientific research grants, eliminating support for 48,000 researchers, students, and teachers. Investments in clean energy technologies that are helping us reduce our dependence on foreign oil would be cut by nearly a fifth.
If this budget becomes law and the cuts were applied evenly, starting in 2014, over 200,000 children would lose their chance to get an early education in the Head Start program. Two million mothers and young children would be cut from a program that gives them access to healthy food. There would be 4,500 fewer federal grants at the Department of Justice and the FBI to combat violent crime, financial crime, and help secure our borders. Hundreds of national parks would be forced to close for part or all of the year. We wouldn’t have the capacity to enforce the laws that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food that we eat.
Cuts to the FAA would likely result in more flight cancellations, delays, and the complete elimination of air traffic control services in parts of the country. Over time, our weather forecasts would become less accurate because we wouldn’t be able to afford to launch new satellites. And that means governors and mayors would have to wait longer to order evacuations in the event of a hurricane.
That’s just a partial sampling of the consequences of this budget. Now, you can anticipate Republicans may say, well, we’ll avoid some of these cuts—since they don’t specify exactly the cuts that they would make. But they can only avoid some of these cuts if they cut even deeper in other areas. This is math. If they want to make smaller cuts to medical research that means they’ve got to cut even deeper in funding for things like teaching and law enforcement. The converse is true as well. If they want to protect early childhood education, it will mean further reducing things like financial aid for young people trying to afford college.
Perhaps they will never tell us where the knife will fall—but you can be sure that with cuts this deep, there is no secret plan or formula that will be able to protect the investments we need to help our economy grow. This is not conjecture. I am not exaggerating. These are facts. And these are just the cuts that would happen the year after next.
If this budget became law, by the middle of the century, funding for the kinds of things I just mentioned would have to be cut by about 95 percent.. ... As a practical matter, the federal budget would basically amount to whatever is left in entitlements, defense spending, and interest on the national debt—period. Money for these investments that have traditionally been supported on a bipartisan basis would be practically eliminated.
And the same is true for other priorities like transportation, and homeland security, and veterans programs for the men and women who have risked their lives for this country. This is not an exaggeration. Check it out yourself.
And this is to say nothing about what the budget does to health care. We’re told that Medicaid would simply be handed over to the states—that’s the pitch ... But here’s the deal the states would be getting. They would have to be running these programs in the face of the largest cut to Medicaid that has ever been proposed—a cut that, according to one nonpartisan group, would take away health care for about 19 million Americans—19 million.
Who are these Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who, without Medicaid, won’t be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s Syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the people who count on Medicaid.
Then there’s Medicare. ... [T]he solution proposed by the Republicans in Washington, and embraced by most of their candidates for president: Instead of being enrolled in Medicare when they turn 65, seniors who retire a decade from now would get a voucher that equals the cost of the second cheapest health care plan in their area. If Medicare is more expensive than that private plan, they’ll have to pay more if they want to enroll in traditional Medicare. If health care costs rise faster than the amount of the voucher—as, by the way, they’ve been doing for decades—that’s too bad. Seniors bear the risk. If the voucher isn’t enough to buy a private plan with the specific doctors and care that you need, that’s too bad….
The net result is that our country will end up spending more on health care, and the only reason the government will save any money ... is because we’ve shifted it to seniors. They’ll bear more of the costs themselves. It’s a bad idea, and it will ultimately end Medicare as we know it.
Obama also pushed back against the tax cuts for the wealthy contained in the Ryan-Romney budget:
We’re told that these tax cuts will supposedly be paid for by closing loopholes and eliminating wasteful deductions. But the Republicans in Congress refuse to list a single tax loophole they are willing to close. Not one. And by the way, there is no way to get even close to $4.6 trillion in savings without dramatically reducing all kinds of tax breaks that go to middle-class families—tax breaks for health care, tax breaks for retirement, tax breaks for homeownership.
Meanwhile, these proposed tax breaks would come on top of more than a trillion dollars in tax giveaways for people making more than $250,000 a year. That’s an average of at least $150,000 for every millionaire in this country—$150,000.
Let’s just step back for a second and look at what $150,000 pays for: A year’s worth of prescription drug coverage for a senior citizen. Plus a new school computer lab. Plus a year of medical care for a returning veteran. Plus a medical research grant for a chronic disease. Plus a year’s salary for a firefighter or police officer. Plus a tax credit to make a year of college more affordable. Plus a year’s worth of financial aid. One hundred fifty thousand dollars could pay for all of these things combined—investments in education and research that are essential to economic growth that benefits all of us….
He summed up the Ryan-Romney budget by saying:
This is supposed to be about paying down our deficit? It’s laughable. ... This congressional Republican budget is something different altogether. It is a Trojan Horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism. It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who’s willing to work for it; a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class. And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last —education and training, research and development, our infrastructure—it is a prescription for decline.
Click here to read the full speech.
Click here to learn more about the Ryan-Romney GOP budget—including what Jewish community leaders said about the plan.
There are no comments for this entry