Ryan’s Plan Could Decimate the Social Safety Net
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The Fiscal Times
March 21, 2012

Mitt Romney said he wasn’t worried about the very poor because they have a government social safety net, and “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.” The Republican presidential frontrunner was talking about the hundreds of billions of dollars the federal government spends annually on food stamps, Medicaid benefits, and education and job training for middle and low-income Americans.

But, if House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan and other congressional Republicans have their way this year, the social safety net will undergo intense scrutiny – and likely shredding – as GOP budget cutters seek long-term deficit reduction without raising taxes. 

“The safety-net system created in the last century is in dire need of a new round of reforms,” Ryan said in the fiscal 2013 budget blue print he unveiled on Tuesday. “Republicans, Democrats and independents all believe in a sturdy safety net for those who, through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times. The debate is over how best to strengthen and improve it. In particular, it is essential to prevent benefit structures from becoming barriers to upward mobility.”

Tens of millions of Americans have turned to these safety net programs in recent years as they have attempted to weather one of the worst recessions of modern times. But Ryan contends that Medicaid health services for the poor and other programs are growing at an unsustainable rate and must be curtailed.

Medicaid for example has been growing on average of 9 percent a year – far faster than the overall economy, while federal spending on food stamps has quadrupled over the past ten years.
“The strains that many of these well-intentioned programs have placed on the nation have reached a breaking point,” he says.

But the Obama administration and liberal budget advocacy groups voiced alarm on Tuesday that in the name of deficit reduction, House Republicans were seeking to repeal  the president’s health care reform law, slash overall Medicaid spending 30 percent or more by 2022, and cut spending for food stamps, college aid and education and job training.

Washington Editor and D.C. Bureau Chief Eric Pianin is a veteran journalist who has covered the federal government, congressional budget and tax issues, and national politics. He spent over 25 years at The Washington Post.