This week, the House of Representatives will vote on the Republican budget, presented by Republican Budget Chair Paul Ryan (as well as alternatives from the Democratic leadership, the Congressional Progressive Caucus "Better Off Budget," the right-wing Republican Study Group budget and Congressional Black Caucus). Republicans are reportedly lined up to vote for the Ryan budget, with the exception of a handful that think it is not extreme enough.
The budget, of course, is dead on arrival in the Senate. So this is a message statement, a voluntary vote to let Americans know where Republicans stand. As Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), the chief deputy majority whip, stated, "This is now viewed as something that identifies who we are. It's strongly identified with [House Republicans]. It'll pass." (emphasis added)
This "identifies who we are." So who are they. In brief summation, the Ryan budget is a remarkably disingenuous document. Its authors claim to be putting the "tough choices" before voters. But it identifies the taxes that Republicans would cut, but not the loopholes they would close or the taxes they would raise to pay for the cuts as promised. It identifies the savings that they would create, but not the programs that they would cut in achieve them.
Even with that, the Republican budget does identify "who we are," what they value, what their priorities are. These are unsurprising but remarkably unconscionable.
The budget that Republicans will choose to vote for will...
Cut taxes on the rich
The Citizens for Tax Justice estimates that even if Republicans eliminated every loophole claimed by the wealthy, lowering the top rates to 25 percent will still hand millionaires an average tax cut of $200,000 a year.
Cut taxes on multinationals
It would lower the top rate of corporate taxes. But most important it calls for moving toward a territorial system for taxing multinationals which in essence turns the entire world outside the US into a tax haven where corporations can move jobs and report profits without having to pay US taxes.
Hike spending on the Pentagon
The Pentagon is slated to spend $6 trillion over the next decade, with annual spending up at the end of the current five-year plan up 27 percent over 2001 in constant dollars. Republicans argue that is not enough, adding nearly $500 billion over the 10 years over sequestration levels (about $273 billion higher than President Obama's budget). This will pay for policing the world; it does not include the costs of the wars that inevitably result from that policing.
Eliminate health insurance for an estimated 40 million Americans
The Republican budget repeals Obamacare without replacing it. It would turn Medicare into a voucher of declining value -- known as a "premium" -- for today's 55-year-olds and younger. It would gut Medicaid, repealing the Obamacare expansion, turning it into a bloc grant and cutting it by a quarter by 2024. Private insurance companies will ration health care by the ability to pay.
Inflict savage cuts in domestic investments
The Republican budget cuts domestic programs by a staggering one-third compared to inflation adjusted levels over the next decade. This includes aid for schools, Head Start, child nutrition, roads and bridges, water systems, border security, the FBI, environmental protection and more. In relation to the size of our economy, spending levels would end up at about half where they were under Ronald Reagan. Republicans will not specify where the cuts come from, which is just as well, since it is inconceivable that they will take place.
Slash programs for the most vulnerable
Even while cutting taxes on the rich and the multinationals, the Republican budget would slash support for the most vulnerable -- Pell grants, Supplemental Nutrition, housing, home heating, child care, and more would be rolled back. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that fully 69 percent of the Republican budget cuts are taken from the poorest and most vulnerable Americans. But of course, poor people don't contribute to campaigns or hire lobbyists.
This Is Who They Are
House Republicans will line up to pass this budget. At the same time, they will not even allow a vote on raising the minimum wage or extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed.
There are many things wrong with the Republican budget. Its austerity will cost jobs and cripple the economy. Its tax cuts will add to Gilded Age inequality. Its Big Oil agenda continues to ignore catastrophic climate change. Its numbers don't add up. Its claim to balance the budget in a decade depends on funny money -- assuming faster growth, keeping Obamacare's tax revenue while repealing its benefits, etc.
But put the disagreements aside. Simply accept Republicans at their word: This is who they are. These are their values. These are the priorities that they choose to endorse. And then pray for the future of this country.