U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan‘s recently released budget was supposed to be a “comprehensive anti-poverty agenda” that would “speak directly to people who have fallen through the cracks.” Lately, of course, Ryan has been aggressively trying to re-brand himself as an advocate for the poor. The Ayn Rand fan with no time for the 47 percent of takers? That was the old Ryan, and it doesn’t sell politically with a public increasingly concerned about inequality. Now Ryan is touring impoverished neighborhoods and giving speeches on poverty and, while occasionally putting his foot in his mouth, generally trying to do everything he can to show that the Republican party cares about the plight of poor people in America.
Ryan is newly committed, in short, to talking about poverty. But what would his budget actually do? The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is releasing a report today and finds that a whopping 69 percent of the cuts target programs for low-income people — Medicaid, food stamps, grants for college, SSI, school lunch and child nutrition programs, and more.
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Health coverage. The Ryan budget has at least $2.7 trillion in cuts to Medicaid and subsidies to help low- and moderate-income people buy private insurance. Under the Ryan plan, at least 40 million low- and moderate-income people — that’s 1 in 8 Americans — would become uninsured by 2024.
Food assistance. The Ryan budget cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $137 billion over the next decade. It adopts the harsh SNAP cuts that the House passed last September — which would force 3.8 million people off the program in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office — and then converts SNAP to a block grant in 2019 and imposes still-deeper cuts.
Help affording college. The Ryan budget cuts Pell Grants for low- and moderate-income students by up to $125 billion through such means as freezing the maximum grant (which already covers less than a third of college costs) for ten years, cutting eligibility in various ways, and repealing all mandatory funding for Pell Grants.
Other mandatory programs serving low-income Americans. The Ryan budget cuts an additional $385 billion — beyond its SNAP cuts —from the budget category containing many mandatory programs for low- and moderate-income Americans, such as Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled, the school lunch and child nutrition programs, and the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits for lower-income working families. We estimate that at least $250 billion of these cuts would fall on such low-income programs, as explained in the final paragraph of this blog.
Low-income discretionary programs. The Ryan budget cuts these programs by about $250 billion, on top of the cuts already enacted through the 2011 Budget Control Act’s discretionary caps and sequestration.
The actual agenda here isn’t any different than the “47 percent of takers” image that Ryan has loudly been trying to shed, Ryan is just dressing it up with more palatable rhetoric. Remember, Ryan says that all of these cuts to our nation’s neediest citizens will “empower recipients to get off the aid rolls.” That’s what Ryan means when he says his budget blueprint will “speak to people who have fallen through the cracks.” The message it will speak: you’re on your own.