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This Week: A Tale of Two Budgets | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

This Week: A Tale of Two Budgets

The budget proposal released by Congressman Paul Ryan this week relies on an alarming $5 trillion in cuts, the majority of which take a hatchet to our healthcare system and other essential services.

As Bryce Covert reports, this most recent iteration is bad for nearly all but the wealthy, but it would do particular damage to the interests of American women. She shares shocking statistics of women’s dependence on Medicaid and Medicare—making up the majority of beneficiaries of both programs—and shows how slashing discretionary spending will hurt a number of programs that women are enormously reliant upon. “Women voters roundly rejected [Ryan] and his running mate in 2012,” writes Covert. “This budget does nothing to address their needs and works against the most vulnerable among them.” For many of those reasons, NETWORK, the same Catholic social justice lobby that opposed Ryan’s economic extremism in the fall, issued a statement challenging the latest iteration of his austerity agenda.

“Reasonable people might ask: What is Paul Ryan thinking?” writes John Nichols, noting the marked similarities between this budget plan and the economic roadmap from Ryan’s failed vice presidential run. A rehash of old proposals cloaked in rhetoric, the new Ryan budget is a “Bumper-Sticker-Slogan Budget”: one that was roundly rejected by American voters in 2012 and does not stand a chance of passing Congress this time around. So what’s his angle? The limelight. Ryan was posturing for the base, just in time for the Conservative Political Action Conference, which started Friday with an opening speech by none other than the House Budget Committee chairman himself.

Also released this week, the Senate Democrats’ budget plan comes fast on the heels of President Obama’s major victory eliminating the Bush tax breaks for high income individual earners. George Zornick asks whether that victory will survive. As the administration and congressional Democrats slowly insinuate concessions into the budget negotiations, the compromises they make may actually end up complementing Paul Ryan’s plan. “The administration,” reports Zornick, “though not eager to make a big public show of it, made it known from the beginning that it would be willing to lower the top rates again during comprehensive tax reform that closed loopholes for the wealthy elsewhere.”

For a much more appealing alternative to the Ryan budget, Zornick points to the vision outlined by the Congressional Progressive Caucus this week: the “Back to Work” budget proposal. A clear, humane and truly progressive plan, the CBC budget prioritizes job creation and public investments across programs indispensable to the growth of the nation. It offsets an increase in spending with common sense measures that reduce military spending and introduce smart and sensible tax solutions, and ultimately create a plan that will reduce public debt over the next decade. As the only budget to sincerely focus on getting people back to work, Zornick argues that the CPC’s budget deserves thoughtful consideration and some real attention.

For continued insight into Congressional budget negotiations and what they mean for our future, check back in regularly with The Nation as we continue to report on the state of politics in real time.

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