Organization Contends Their Version is a Sharp Contrast to Ryan's
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) presented an alternative budget for the 2013 fiscal year that they said slashes deficits, eliminates the sequester and protects those programs which are safety nets for the most vulnerable.
"Since 1981, the CBC has presented alternate budgets which lowers deficits and alleviates harm in a fiscally sound manner," said CBC Chairman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio). "I do not believe we should sacrifice the community to balance the budget."
"I'm extremely proud of this budget. I think it's the best one offered so far."
Fudge was joined by Reps. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) in a media conference call on Friday, March 15. Each criticized the budget released recently by Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan because of its over-reliance on savaging Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while calling for even greater cuts to taxes for the richest Americans.
"There are different priorities between us and the Republicans," said Scott. "I wouldn't call what the Republicans produced a budget. It's a document. We use a pre-sequester baseline and parts of our budget eliminates the sequester ... there is $500 billion invested to accelerate the nation's economic recovery, we restore cuts to education, there's 10 years of deficit reduction of $1.2 trillion. We spent money in different ways and exceeded Simpson-Bowles by $400 million."
Simpson-Bowles refers to a commission brought together by President Barack Obama to find a recipe of spending cuts and revenue to balance the budget.
Scott explained that Congress has already implemented $2.4 trillion in tax cuts, adding that $1.6 trillion in cuts is needed to put the country on a sustainable path. He said the CBC taskforce found $4 trillion in cuts by focusing on closing corporate loopholes and special interest benefits, noting that "a lot more could have been found."
This is budget season in the nation's capital with both political parties, as well as Obama, the CBC, the Progressive Caucus and a range of other entities and groups putting forward their version of what the budget should look like. Ryan put forward one blueprint, as did Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). And if the elements of the debate seem familiar, it is because Democrats and Republicans have been fighting this battle for a while now. At issue is what constitutes the government's responsibilities to its people as far as the budget goes, the scope of government and curbing spending and reducing deficits.
The budget debate is occurring against the backdrop of the debt ceiling, the sequester which is $85 billion in arbitrary across-the-board cuts to defense and domestic programs and other budget issues. Both Democrats and Republicans are entangled in often rancorous debates about the appropriate way forward.
"It's a fascinating document ... and it's a formula we've worked on for years," said Clyburn, about one section of the budget that calls for a national strategy to eliminate poverty by 50 percent in the next 10 years. "This budget will go into effect on Oct. 1. The budget will go into effect when the sequester ends."
Clyburn, the Assistant Democratic Leader, said his 10-20-30 amendment in Obama's Recovery Act directs 10 percent of the budget to 20 percent of the nation's population that has been living below the poverty line for the past 30 years.
Lee and her colleagues criticized Ryan's budget proposal which is reportedly seeking $4.6 trillion in cuts and seeks to eliminate deficits over 10 years without any tax increases; which counts $2.5 trillion in health care savings by repealing Obamacare; has $1 trillion in unspecified, mandatory cuts and $3.5 trillion in reductions to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without any tax loopholes being closed.
"Our budget exposes the Republican budget for what it is," Lee said. "That's $2.5 trillion in health care cuts that would be shifted to citizens. We have a responsible budget with credible numbers, job packages and we restore funds to programs. We have maintained fiscal responsibility and [will] create jobs, which is a priority."
She said the CBC budget includes $230 billion for the maintenance and repair of airports, bridges, roads and other infrastructure upgrades and renovations. In addition, $13 billion would be allocated to pay for the Workforce Investment Act and dislocation training; $50 billion would provide relief to states and municipalities and pay for salaries for teachers and law enforcement among other things; and $50 billion would be directed to finance a housing stabilization plan. The budget also sets aside $50 billion for veterans of the Iraq and Afghani wars.
"This budget creates a sharp contrast to the Ryan budget," said Lee. "It's critical because it maintains the safety net and invests in job creation. It also provides opportunities for all. I look forward to a good vote on this."
The lawmakers said that party members are negotiating and they are working to have many of the elements in their budget version incorporated into the Democratic budget.
Moore spoke of the importance of maintaining the safety net by preserving programs that Republicans have labeled entitlements: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
"There's lots of subterfuge on whether to make these cuts," she said. "We did not include these cuts to Social Security and Medicaid but many people have been itching to make these changes, literally throwing seniors and young people under the bus. We enjoyed dealing with this affirmatively."
"We think it's possible to strengthen Social Security and Medicare by getting more rebates from pharmaceutical companies, negotiating Part B to produce billions of dollars in savings, and also changing the cost of living adjustment of Social Security ..."
Scott said it is estimated that the sequester will cause between 750,000 and two million Americans to lose their jobs. However, the CBC budget through its jobs plan will lead to an increase of between 2.5 and 5 million jobs.
"To the extent that we allow the Ryan budget to take effect, to bring block grants and voucherize programs will cause deep problems. We're fighting for low-income people in this budget ... and you're beginning to hear the message of fighting for the middle class," said Clyburn.