New Speaker, Same Old Policies

— by CAP Action War Room

Paul Ryan’s Record Indicates We’re In For The Same Broken GOP Policies

Speaker of the House — Paul Ryan (R-WI)

After much chaos and dysfunction, the House of Representatives elected Representative Paul Ryan from Wisconsin to be Speaker of the House. The Republicans have lauded their new Speaker as their “thought leader” who creates the “blueprints” for policies: he was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Much of the GOP rhetoric around Ryan’s run for speaker has suggested that he will usher in a new era of moderate, pragmatic, and effective leadership that will be both good for the economy and the American people. Though we hope Ryan can bring sanity to this House of GOP crazies and stop them from holding the government hostage time and again, we’re not holding our breath for a “new day in the House of Representatives.”

Despite GOP rhetoric, the reality of Paul Ryan’s record, including his signature 2014 budget, suggests that his Speakership will be full of the same old, out of touch, extreme Republican policies that undermine working families to help the rich get richer—policies that voters already rejected in the 2012 election. Here are a few reminders of Ryan’s record:

  • Bad for low-income families. Ryan tried to paint himself as an anti-poverty crusader, by embarking on poverty tour in 2014 and releasing a report documenting his concerns about poverty. But in reality, Ryan creates policies that cut programs that are vital for working families and blames poverty on personal failures, claiming that it is the result of a “culture problem.” The bulk of the Ryan Budget’s spending cuts—69 percent—come from gutting programs that serve low-income people. And after his 2014 poverty tour, he proposed slashing $125 billion from the
    (SNAP), also known a food stamps, over the next 10 years, and converting it to a flat-funded block grant. He also proposed cuts to Medicaid, a critical program that provides health care to 70 million Americans, including low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities. And of course, Ryan wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has provided health insurance for 17.6 million people.
  • Bad for seniors. In his 2014 budget, Ryan abandoned the pledge Republicans made to protect anyone age 55 or older from Medicare cuts and instead advocated for forcing seniors to pay more by radically altering Medicare. He also supports turning Medicare into a voucher system, which would increase premiums for traditional Medicare by 50 percent, according to the CBO. Ryan has also attacked one of the other pillars of economic security for seniors: Social Security. Despite the fact that Social Security survivor benefits made it possible for him to pay for his college tuition, Ryan’s 2010 budget cut benefits and privatized a substantial portion of the program, instead of lifting the Social Security payroll tax cap so that the rich pay their fair share of payroll taxes.
  • Bad for women. Ryan’s dismal record on women’s issues has earned him a 0 percent score from Planned Parenthood on women’s issues. He has voted numerous times to defund Planned Parenthood and is a leading advocate for personhood bills. And though Paul Ryan used his power to guarantee time with his family despite his Speaker duties, he refuses to support legislation, such as guaranteed paid sick and paid family leave, to help others have this right. Unlike Paul Ryan, no one else has federally guaranteed paid time off for illness, holidays, vacation, or the arrival of a new child. Women usually still most feel the burden of this lack of paid leave. More than 40 percent of mothers have cut back on work to care for family. And as new research shows that boosting women’s earnings helps slow the growth of inequality, it is apparent that Paul Ryan’s extremism hurts not only women, but also the economy.
  • Bad for the economy. Ryan’s budgets and rhetoric tout the same failed trickle-down economic theories that have only helped the rich get even richer but leave middle class and working families behind. His budget proposed giving millionaires a tax cut of at least $200,000. And analyses indicate, there is no way to implement Ryan’s tax cuts for millionaires in a deficit-neutral way without raising taxes on the middle class. Ryan also advocates for austerity measures that have never worked and would hurt the economy. And yet, his budget advocates for enormous cuts to investments in education, science, and other programs that benefit the middle class.

BOTTOM LINE: Though we’d like to hope that Paul Ryan’s new title will cause him to reevaluate his policies and support legislation that will actually help working families, his record of damaging polices creates huge warning signs. If Paul Ryan’s reign as speaker is anything like his record, we’re in for another period of GOP extremism that hurts families, seniors, women, and the economy. But now that the chaos has cleared, Republicans in the House of Representatives should take this opportunity under new leadership to pass policies that support working families, rather than the wealthy few.

This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.  ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

SNAP is NOT “Wasteful Spending” as the GOP would have you believe

Every five years, Congress passes a bundle of legislation, commonly called the "Farm Bill" that sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policy. The last Farm Bill was passed in 2008, and expires in 2012.

The current iteration of the “farm bill” is S3240, which represents the most significant reforms in agricultural policy in decades.  As passed (Vote 164) by the Senate, the bill would cost just under $1 trillion over the next 10 years, financing dozens of price-support and crop insurance programs for farmers and food assistance for low-income families. It would end direct payments, streamline and consolidate programs. Plus, it would reduce the deficit by $23 billion. It would also strengthen top priorities that help farmers, ranchers, and small business owners continue to grow our economy.

S3240 may be know as the “farm bill,” but a majority of the spending under this bill is devoted to the food stamp program.  Once the bill got to the House, their first order of business was to increase cuts in the bill to $35M instead of the $11B in cuts identified and passed by the Senate.  The bill should be before the house on July 11th. Those deeper cuts have been signed off by both Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN).

So let’s look at the cuts that affect the working poor.  While the Senate cut only $4B from the food stamp program (SNAP–Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), the House version cut more than $16B from SNAP.  Than means that 45% of the proposed cuts are coming out of the mouths of the truly needy by changing the rules through which a family might qualify for assistance.  The House version:

  • Requires that recipients must receive “welfare” (TANF–Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) to “automatically” qualify for SNAP
  • Closes a “loophole” that allowed families who qualify for heating assistance to automatically qualify for SNAP

The kicker is, that if a family’s assets (SNAP asset limit of $2,000) drives them slightly over the “categorical eligibility” mark (with say a car that allows them to get to work or the store), they’ll still be living in poverty, but they’ll be ineligible for any SNAP assistance.  The CBPP (Center on Budget & Policy Priorities) estimates that the Lucas-Peterson version of the Farm Bill which ends “categorical eligibility,” would deny assistance to approximately 2-3 million people, some of whom are currently receiving assistance.

According to the CBPP, the proposed cuts would cause significant hardships for millions of low-income families, in that,

  • The bill would terminate SNAP eligibility to several million people.  By eliminating categorical eligibility, which over 40 states have adopted, the bill would cut 2 to 3 million low-income people off food assistance. 
  • Several hundred thousand low-income children would lose access to free school meals.  According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), 280,000 children in low-income families whose eligibility for free school meals is tied to their receipt of SNAP would lose free meals when their families lost SNAP benefits.
  • Some working families would lose access to SNAP because they own a modest car, which they often need to commute to their jobs.  Eliminating categorical eligibility would cause some low-income working households to lose benefits simply because of the value of a modest car they own.  These families would be forced to choose between owning a reliable car and receiving food assistance to help feed their families.

Instead of working to strengthen our economy, the Republican-led House has instead, decided it’s necessary to rein in costs on the backs of the poor.  If they actually did their job to strengthen the economy, millions of the working poor might actually earn enough money such that they no longer needed the temporary assistance.

History demonstrates that SNAP caseloads and expenditures fall after unemployment and poverty fall, as CBO’s recent report on SNAP notes.  SNAP caseload growth already has slowed dramatically; in fact, over the last six months (through April 2012, the most recent month for which data are available), SNAP participation has declined slightly.  According to CBO, in the years ahead the share of the population that participates in SNAP will fall back to 2008 levels.

According to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts SNAP as income, SNAP kept more than 5 million people out of poverty in 2010.  SNAP also lessens the severity of poverty for millions of others; if SNAP is counted as income, it lifted 2.5 million children above 75 percent of the poverty line in 2005, more than any other program.

SNAP is NOT contributing to our long-term budgetary problems, yet the GOP–led House has framed it as the evil of all evils, and as such, must be curtailed and/or eliminated completely.  I’m not buying it, and the present-day GOP’s revolting values are not the values of the nation in which I was raised.

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