Meet Rep. Paul Ryan, a man who has rolled up his sleeves and seemingly done the impossible: Attempted to balance our country’s runaway deficit. With the skill of an amateur plastic surgeon, Ryan has hacked away at the bulges and rolls of fat of the U.S. budget with a sharpened knife, gutting out social programs to make our beloved country fit in the same waistband it did 15 or 20 years ago. Oh, to be slim again.
But with all that fat being trimmed, there are a few vital organs being thrown out — Medicare and Medicaid face the chopping block with Ryan’s proposed cuts, and other items such as food stamps, Pell Grants and low-income housing have also been targeted as excess weight in our unstable economy.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that Ryan’s plan singles out a particular group of individuals in society: the disadvantaged and the people who can’t hope to represent themselves. Cuts to low-income programs account for $2.9 trillion — or two-thirds — of the money Ryan hopes to save with his plan. The old, the poor and the sick don’t stand a chance.
Sadly, targeting those who lack the financial resources to effectively speak for themselves is a common theme among Republican budget plans. The much more vocal interest groups, corporations, the rich and the other miscellaneous well-endowed have been spared from Ryan’s crusade.
But getting sick and old are inevitable, a fact that has somehow managed to sink through the many, many layers of Ryan’s skull. Ryan plans to completely restructure Medicare to instead hand out premiums, essentially vouchers that offer an annual, pre-determined amount of money to the elderly. That predetermined amount, however, is scaled to inflation. The problem? Medical care has never risen at levels that match inflation. The result? Granny’s going to be paying two-thirds of her medical bills out of her own pocket. But it’s all for the benefit of the American economy, right?
Frankly, I’m sick of the “socially inconvenient” being the first to make sacrifices. I’m all for streamlining programs, for making them more cost-efficient and for closing loopholes, but only when those changes exist across the board. I mentioned earlier that there’s a common theme of what’s targeted with budget plans. Now I’ll tell you what’s often untouched: the defense bill. Ryan might be one step away from suggesting we set seniors adrift into the Great Pacific on the next ice floe (a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point). But our defense bill will remain six times that of China’s, we’ll still be shelling out billions of dollars to preserve a nuclear stockpile numbering in the thousands and we’ll still have more military contractors in Afghanistan than American soldiers. All this is of course necessary and integral to our nation’s state of being. On a side note: I’m getting better at typing one-handed with my fingers crossed behind my back.
The truth is, there are many more sectors of the economy that can see the same cuts low-income programs are seeing. I don’t praise Ryan’s foolish plan any more than I consider him an American hero for publishing a budget that mainly attacks the sorely disadvantaged. Nor do I believe draining Medicare will improve our struggling economy. My conclusion? I have a feeling Grandma Ryan’s birthday check to our favorite senator is going to get lost in the mail.
—Chris Pocock is a journalism junior.
—The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.