Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

January 18, 2014

Simple test for poverty proposals

WASHINGTON — There’s a simple way to tell whether the Republican Party’s newfound commitment to fighting poverty is more than rhetoric: Follow the money.

Follow the trail in the party’s recent budgets and what you find, hidden between appendix tables, are deep cuts to programs for the poor. That’s the inevitable consequence of Republican commitments to favored constituencies. The party promised its anti-tax wing no tax increases and lower tax rates. It promised older voters that Medicare and Social Security would not change for those over age 55. It promised defense hawks that sequestration cuts to military spending would be reversed. And it promised its tea party allies that it would cut trillions from government spending and balance the federal budget.

The only way to square all those promises is through draconian cuts to programs for the poor. The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that programs for lower-income Americans would account for two-thirds of proposed Republican budget savings. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that as many as 37 million Americans would lose access to Medicaid, which was targeted for hundreds of billions in cuts.

That’s an agenda that would result in more poverty and deprivation, not less.

et all the Republicans now talking about poverty — Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) — either voted for or, in Ryan’s case, authored these cuts.

The notion that the main problem of the poor and jobless is their generous indulgence by the federal government is apparently too seductive to resist. Senate Republicans this week filibustered an extension of emergency benefits to the long-term unemployed. Some have argued that the existence of unemployment benefits is itself the problem.

“When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy,” Paul said.

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