My First Week at FCNL: Reflections on the Ryan Budget
By Tila Neguse on 08/17/2012 @ 02:00 PM
My arrival in D.C. and my first week at FCNL coincides with Mitt Romney’s recent announcement of Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate. This announcement brings Rep. Ryan’s budget into the public eye. Ryan is most known as the author of “Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal,” the controversial budget plan that slashes domestic spending, increases defense, and shrinks the overall size and role of the federal government.
As the new Legislative Associate on Domestic Issues for FCNL, I’ll be working closely on the federal budget; covering a broad range of issues from human needs programs to military spending. I am coming from my work as the Director of the Peace Economy Project, a St. Louis based organization that does education and research about lowering military spending. I am thrilled about being here at FCNL and expanding upon the foundation I built working on military spending issues at the local level in St. Louis. And as I settle in, I find myself reflecting on the debate we’re having now and that will continue right through the fall.
Rep. Ryan, because of his position as Chairman of the House Budget Committee, directly places the conversation about national security and the Pentagon under a budgetary lens. Although Ryan has been described as a ‘budget hawk’, his stance on Pentagon spending has not been consistent with that philosophy. The Ryan budget proposed a Pentagon spending hike of $599 billion more (over the next ten years) than proposed by the Obama budget. Although Rep. Ryan originally voted in support of the budget agreement last summer that enacted the sequester, the Ryan budget plan doesn’t follow that law. It prescribes much more severe cuts to non-defense discretionary spending (which includes everything from veterans’ health care to border protection to education) than the sequester would require, in favor of raising military spending well beyond the caps set forth by the Budget Control Act.
Adding to such inconsistencies, in March of this year, Rep. Ryan was at the center of Pentagon budget controversy when he openly accused Pentagon leaders of being wrong in their assessment that the military budget outlined by Pres. Obama was sufficient enough to fulfill their needs. Even though Pentagon officials themselves were vocal about their support of Obama’s military budget, Rep. Ryan and his Republican counterparts concluded that a higher budget was needed to maintain national security and incorporated such a spike in military spending in the Ryan budget, while slashing domestic. Consider these disturbing facts:
The Ryan budget will continue to raise the nation’s out-of-control military budget, with an increase beginning in 2013. This will be done at the expense of domestic spending, which includes vital social programs for the elderly, sick, poor, and hungry. The current level of military spending is unsustainable, yet, under this plan, it would continue to grow.
The Ryan budget supports the continuation of tax cuts for the wealthy, which will further the revenue gap in this country. The budget would extend the Bush-era tax policies which were part of the driving force behind the deficit. Such policy continues to champion the false premise that tax cuts for the wealthy will generate economic prosperity for all Americans.
The Ryan budget cuts food assistance SNAP benefits by $133 billion dollars over 10 years, even though UNICEF recently ranked the U.S. as having the second highest rate of child hunger in the developed world.
The Ryan budget seeks to cut $800 billion from Medicaid and replace it with a smaller state-run program. The budget also calls for a complete overhaul of Medicare by implementing a voucher system in which low income seniors would be responsible for purchasing their own insurance from private companies. These cuts would be in addition to the budget’s proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
This is not the future America I envision. In light of this budget crisis, I can’t help but be reminded of the powerful words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in famous 1967 Beyond Vietnam Speech; a speech that has guided me throughout my peace and justice work. He says, “I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”
I came to FCNL to advocate for a Federal Budget that reflects the basic principles of peace, equality, and humanity. The cuts to government funding proposed in the Ryan budget would further injure local economies already suffering and recovering from a recession, while the cuts to human needs programs will punish people who are already hurting. Whatever happens in this election, much of the debate will center on budget issues. I will hold on to the faith that there has to be a compromise between ensuring long -term economic security and protecting our citizens without leaving our poor, elderly, and hungry to fend for themselves.
We cannot, as Dr. King reminds us, let the triumvirate of poverty, racism, and militarism prosper.