I thank the gentleman from Georgia for yielding me the customary 30 minutes. I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks and I yield myself 8 minutes.
M. Speaker, budgets are moral documents. These annual documents are really statements of who we are as political parties and groups. They represent our values. They tell a story about what we believe in and how we would govern.
I had thought I’d come here today to say that this budget before us – the Ryan Budget – is simply bad or that it’s misguided. M. Speaker, it’s much worse than that. This is an awful budget. It takes our country in a fundamentally wrong direction.
It seems as though every year, we shake our heads, wondering how the latest Ryan budget could possibly get worse than the previous year’s effort. And yet, time after time, the Ryan budget manages to pull it off.
This budget is cruel, but sadly it is not unusual.
Year after year, the Ryan budget does more and more damage to the social fabric of our nation. Year after year, it puts the wishes of the rich ahead of the needs of the poor. Year after year, it sacrifices the reality of desperately needed investments at the altar of theoretical deficit reduction.
Let’s look at the details. The Ryan budget includes deep cuts. How deep? $791 billion below the sequester number. $791 billion below sequester! That’s amazing, M. Speaker. Now, I voted against sequester because of the damage it would – and did – inflict on our economy. And this budget would actually cut nearly a trillion dollars on top of the sequester. I thought we wanted to end the sequester, not make choices that are even worse.
But that’s not the end of the story. According to one estimate, sixty-nine percent of the Ryan budget cuts come from low-income programs. It would shred the safety net. The programs that help keep millions of Americans out of poverty, that help provide millions of Americans with healthcare, that help provide millions of children with school meals and early childhood education receive the lion’s share of the cuts.
In fact, according to the same estimate, $3.3 trillion of the Ryan budget’s $4.8 trillion non-defense cuts come from low-income safety net programs like Medicaid, SNAP, school breakfast and lunch programs, HeadStart, the Supplemental Security Income program, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Child Tax Credits. Sixty-nine percent of the total non-defense cuts come from these life-changing – indeed, life-SAVING -- programs.
The Ryan budget is successful at one thing – it deepens the divide between the rich and the poor in this country. It successfully makes life harder for those who are already struggling to make ends meet.
If you are hungry in America, you would see food benefits cut by $137 billion.
If you are a middle class college student in America, hopefully you can win the lottery or have a rich uncle, because Pell Grants would be cut by $125 billion by freezing the maximum grant and cutting eligibility.
If you are low-income working mother in America who gets healthcare through Medicaid, you would join at least 40 million Americans who become uninsured by 2024 after the Ryan budget cuts at least $2.7 trillion from Medicaid.
And if you are a middle class family with kids in America, just trying to get by in this sluggish economy, you would see your taxes go up by about $2000 a year.
But if you’re fortunate enough to be very rich in America? Well, time to pop the champagne, because you make out like a bandit. The oil companies keep their tax breaks. Businesses can keep putting money in overseas accounts just to avoid paying taxes here in America. And if you’re a millionaire? Get ready for a big, fat check from Uncle Sam. That’s because anyone making more than $1 million a year will see a tax cut of at least $200,000.
On top of these disastrous policies, the Ryan budget once again goes after seniors. This version once again ends the Medicare guarantee and re-opens the Medicare prescription drug donut hole. As a result of these cuts, seniors will see their traditional Medicare premiums soar by an average of 50 percent. As the AARP says, quote, “removing the Medicare guarantee of affordable health coverage for older Americans by implementing a premium support system and asking seniors and future retirees to pay more is not the right direction” end quote.
These policies have real world ramifications. Last week, an incredibly strong and courageous group of women called the Witnesses to Hunger returned to Capitol Hill to talk about their struggles as low-income, working women trying to make ends meet. It takes guts to come here to Capitol Hill to tell your story and challenge Members of Congress to do better. And that’s exactly what these impressive women did.
They told their stories. The talked about their struggles. And they challenged us to do more to help them so they don’t fall back into poverty.
These women – and the millions of Americans like them who work hard every day but don’t earn enough to make ends meet, who are having to choose between rent, food and electricity – these women and their children aren’t line items in our budget. They aren’t statistics in our reports. They are people. People who just want to have a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and an education system that will help their children learn and succeed. They want to go college and not have to worry about losing their scholarships just because they are a single mother and need to work a night job to feed their child.
These women, and the millions of Americans just like them, would be hurt – devastated – by the Ryan budget. I’m glad there are people who are able to make a lot of money in this country. But we shouldn’t penalize those who are struggling.
M. Speaker, we should be providing ladders of opportunity to help people get out of poverty and move into the middle class. When people need a helping hand, we should provide that assistance, whether it’s a job training program, early childhood education, healthcare, or something as simple and basic as food. These aren’t handouts; they’re hand ups. They’re investments in our future. And we should be providing opportunities that strengthen our communities and the middle class through job creation, higher education, and advancing research and innovation.
This is a great country. We’ve done great things and we will continue to do great things. But we’ve begun to think small. We don’t tackle big problems anymore and we use deficit reductions as an excuse. We should want to end hunger; end poverty; and create opportunities for all our citizens. The Ryan budget would set us back. It would do real damage to millions and millions of real Americans – our neighbors, our friends, our fellow parishioners.
As Pope Francis has written in his Papal Exhortation, QUOTE “I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good.” END QUOTE
M. Speaker, the Ryan budget fails that basic test. It does not seek the common good. And it deserves to be defeated.
I reserve the balance of my time.