Repealing Obamacare and reducing spending on Medicaid, food stamps and Pell Grants are some of the measures proposed by Republican Congressman and former Romney presidential running mate Paul Ryan, who is Chairman of the Republican-led House Budget Committee. Ryan defended his 4.6 trillion-dollar proposal for 2014 as the only way to bring down the high level of debt, which he called a “threat to our economy.” Though The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal will not pass – it will not get the votes in the Democrat-led Senate – it provided a stark contrast to the Democratic policies which, in polls, were strongly favored by a majority of voters, including Latinos.
“The election didn’t go our way – that means we surrender our principles? That means we stop believing in what we believe in?” said Congressman Ryan, after he was asked at the press conference why he was proposing policies rejected by voters in November.
Ryan proposes cutting spending on Medicaid and food stamps by converting the funds to block grants to states and tightening eligibility through more work requirements and time limits on participation. On the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare – Ryan said, “We don’t like this law – it will collapse under its own weight.”
Republican Texas Congressman Bill Flores, who is a member of the House Budget Committee, stated his support for this budget proposal. “Our budget stands in stark contrast to President Obama’s previous budget proposals that never, ever balanced,” stated Flores. ’It is a bold plan that will fix our broken tax code, repair the safety net and expand opportunities for American families,” Congressman Flores added.
But Georgetown University economist and former Labor Department Chief Economist Adriana Kugler criticized the proposal. ”How can people move up the ladder if you are moving people into a more precarious situation?” says Kugler. She points to Ryan’s proposed reduction in spending on Pell Grants, which are given to students whose families fall between 130 and 185 percent of the poverty line. “The Ryan proposal is to keep Pell Grants at the same level for the next 10 years, but tuition costs for colleges continue to go up, so this is being passed on to families,” says Kugler.
“How are people going to go to college and a have a better life without access to education? Let’s be realistic,” adds Kugler. On health care, rolling back Obamacare would increase the deficit, says Kugler, arguing that the Affordable Care Act’s move toward preventive care and reductions to providers is already saving money.
The Ryan budget proposal kept the recent tax increases, but does not add any more, thus relying mainly on cuts to balance the budget. Kugler says, however, the economy grew substantially in the 1990s “when we had higher taxes and a balanced budget.”
The majority of Latino voters have rejected Ryan’s similar policies in the past. In a pre-election Latino Decisions poll, 66 percent of Hispanics agreed that government has a role in ensuring health care access and 61 percent of Latinos wanted to keep Obamacare. On jobs and the economy, more than 4 out of 10 Latino voters supported a combination of higher taxes and spending cuts to reduce the deficit, and only 12 percent of Latinos supported “only spending cuts.”
Following the November vote, Latino Decisions political scientist Matt Barreto said “many Latinos we polled were nervous over the Ryan budget and its proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.”