Ryan, GOP Launch New Attack on Social Safety Net

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    As proof that they learned nothing from their party’s thrashing in 2012, House GOPers again voted for the absurd budget put forth yet again by that self-appointed “budget expert,” Paul Ryan. Every Republican congressman from Virginia voted for that budget, and they should be ashamed of that vote. It’s not only morally wrong; it’s foolish.

    As Rep. Jim Moran noted in his statement on the budget vote, “According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 66 percent of its $5 trillion in non-defense budget cuts [in Ryan’s bill] over ten years come from programs that serve low and moderate income Americans.” Medicaid alone would be cut nearly $1.4 trillion over the 10-year period. My question is simply this: Who are the Republicans, including Virginia’s Republicans, proposing to drop from Medicaid rolls?

    Ryan’s budget would get some of its Medicaid savings from repealing the Affordable Care Act, an example of the impossible smoke-and-mirrors he uses to make his “arithmetic” work. Then, he would turn Medicaid itself into a block grant to states with an annual hard cap on federal money. That means that someone at some level of government will have to make horrible decisions about who lives and who ultimately dies.

    Medicaid is NOT a program that serves lazy adults who should be finding their own health insurance through work. Poverty alone does not mean a person qualifies for the program, either. All but about 15% of Medicaid goes to three groups: the elderly in nursing homes who have spent down their entire estate before becoming eligible (24%), the severely handicapped or blind who are incapable of work (44%), and very poor children (17%). In Virginia, the remaining 15% of Medicaid recipients have to be the poorest of the poor, with annual incomes below $9,000.

    Perhaps the GOP could set up those “death panels” Sarah Palin talked about in 2008 to decide who won’t be covered any more. Their job would be to decide which old people should be left to die at home, which severely handicapped people would be left to waste away, which children deserved no health care. What Ryan is setting up is a system where someone, either on the state or the federal level, will have to decide who is worthy of continued life and who is not.

    Another way of looking at what Ryan has wrought is to see it as a way to push what had been a federal-state equal obligation to recipients down to the state level through a hard block grant and force politicians there make the hard decisions about coverage. Virginia certainly knows that budget trick well. It was used quite effectively in the recent recessionary state budgets, when the state “balanced” its budget by requiring localities to assume more of educational funding and public safety funding, even requiring them to send local money to the state.

    In Virginia Gov. McDonnell has used the excuse of wanting to make Medicaid “more efficient” as a way to avoid signing on for the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid. What he doesn’t tell us is that Medicare and Medicaid spending per beneficiary has grown less rapidly than costs for private health insurance. Indeed, those programs are the most efficient in the nation in the delivery of health care. Their cost is primarily a function of their covering the oldest and sickest of Americans.

    Paul Ryan prides himself on his faith as a Catholic. Perhaps he should reflect on the words of the new Pope Francis, who said he chose his name in honor of Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis said he wished for a church that was both poor and “for the poor.” In contrast, Paul Ryan wants a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. His budget reflects his philosophy, and no amount of patting himself on the back for a phony “balanced budget” can hide who he really represents. It isn’t us ordinary folks.

    And, if you think Ryan’s attack on the poor is bad, just check out his tax cuts that are a bonanza for the wealthiest of America’s citizens. Republicans never cease to amaze me in their venality and political tone-deafness.