By Charles B. Rangel
Instead of promoting a plan to create jobs, Republicans marked their 100th day in control of the House with an agenda to end Medicare and cut the lifeline of millions of Americans. Introduced last week by Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP's "Road to Ruin" budget proposal does do two things: it hurts the poor and helps the rich. Viewed as an effort to reduce the debt, the Republican budget is both irresponsible and immoral.
I had the opportunity Wednesday to greet a group of black clergy and leaders who were seeking congressional support for the elimination of HIV/AIDS virus infections in the United States. They came to Washington holding the belief that our nation protects the most vulnerable among us. Yet the Republican plan to privatize Medicare, gut Medicaid and to cut almost 3 trillion dollars of funding that serves the elderly and the poor undermines our core belief in providing aid to our brothers and sisters in need.
Of the $4.3 trillion dollars in cuts that the Republicans propose over 10 years, the cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid -- two programs that reduced the level of elderly living in poverty from 26% to 10% -- will have a devastating impact on millions of Americans.
At a time when the cost of healthcare is rising, the Republican formula for Medicare requires seniors to either pay $6000 more out-of-pocket or get less coverage. The end result is a dramatic increase in the financial burden of health costs, with future retirees paying up to nearly three times as much for their healthcare than they would if current law continued. In other words, the proposed GOP cuts abandons the promises we have made to seniors and people with disabilities by reducing nursing home and long-term care and by ending Medicare as we know it.
At the same time Republicans seek to permanently extend huge tax cuts for America's millionaires and billionaires, they are cutting back on Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, and low-income housing. It cuts investments in alternative energy while providing $40 billion dollars in tax loopholes to oil companies. This reveals the hypocrisy of the Right.
While it is clear that we must address our fiscal situation, the Republicans' method of doing this through the Ryan budget is wrong. It doesn't create one job and adds $1 trillion to the deficit. Cutting services for the most vulnerable people, the poor who are sick, the older people who are sick, and our young people who are trying to get an education is immoral.
Democrats know we need to reduce the deficit, but reject the way the Republican budget resolution goes about doing so. We must continue building for the future of our great country, and make certain that investments in education and infrastructure are a part of our long-term plan while we reduce our deficit. This is what the Democratic Party is all about.
The Republicans in their proposed budget have made it abundantly clear there is a big, big difference between our two parties. As we face the threat of eliminating vital support programs, it is important that we all come together and answer just how our country should treat the lesser among us. In a test that must be at the core of this important debate, the Republican budget fails the American people badly.