Republicans hailed the budget resolutions released this week by the House and Senate as a blueprint for addressing the urgent problem of what to do for the poor and middle class once they become rich.
“When was the last time you read a budget that was so focused on the needs of the less affluent?” said Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, the House budget chairman, pointing out that in the House proposal at least two-thirds of the $5 trillion in cuts over 10 years would come from programs that focus on low- and modest-income Americans, even though such programs account for less than one-fourth of all federal program costs.
“Now that we are heading for a stronger America,” Mr. Price said, waving the House’s 43-page budget, “it is time we addressed, head on, the needs of the poor and middle class once they become wealthy. This isn’t some fantasy. This is real. We have to stop kicking that can down the road and deal with problem once and for all.”
Mr. Price said that once the hundreds of billions of dollars in “dynamic” economic growth spurred by the policies of this budget kick in, and the “macroeconomic impact” takes hold, there will be no need for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, or any of the benefits realized by the Affordable Care Act.
“Today we begin the monumental task of ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to share in our nation’s prosperity so long as they play by the same rules as the wealthy,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
“We have a profound moral responsibility to assure the less affluent hard-working Americans that we will be there for them when they become rich,” said Sen. Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “We intend to keep our side of the bargain. We’re just waiting on them.”
Republicans say it is a sign of their confidence in the can-do ability of the country’s struggling citizens that their plan’s deep cuts land squarely on the people who most need help: the poor and the working class.
“A budget is a moral document; it talks about where your values are,” said Rep. Rob Woodall, Republican of Georgia and a member of the Budget Committee. “We’ve never had the opportunity before to show those who are struggling to make ends meet through no fault of their own that we believe in them. We believe they will find a way to realize their dreams and make this budget work.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the committee’s ranking Democrat, sees it differently, saying the Republican plan “takes budget quackery to a new level.”
And President Obama criticized the GOP leaders for putting forward a plan that offers a path to prosperity only for those who have already prospered.
“If President Obama was serious about expanding growth and opportunity, he’d be working with Republicans,” said John A. Boehner, the speaker of the House. “As a top earner, it’s time this president started looking out for himself, which is also the best way to look out for middle-class families.”
Republicans concede some of their budget proposals are vague and the math in support of them is less than rigorous.
The plan claims more than $1 trillion in savings from unspecified cuts to programs like food stamps and welfare. And while calling for the full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, including the tax increases that finance the health care law, the GOP House plan assumes the same level of federal revenue over the next 10 years that the Congressional Budget Office foresees with those tax increases in place — essentially counting $1 trillion of taxes that the same budget swears to forgo.
And even, then the numbers add up only after assuming hundreds of billions of dollars in new growth that is attributed some nebulous power of the budget itself.
“Look, the first step in achieving success is belief,” said Sen. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is expected to make a run for the Republican presidential nomination. “We’re saying you need to believe in this budget because doing so shows you have a belief in yourself. Is that really too much to ask?”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a member of both the Budget and the Armed Services Committees, said, “We talk about numbers, but we – especially we Republicans - live in a world that’s not just driven by numbers.”
“But in the event this doesn’t work out,” Mr. Graham added, “We will probably need more money to defend the nation.”
Philip Maddocks writes a weekly satirical column. He can be reached at pmaddocks@wickedlocal.com.