Do you think the government should spend less money on Medicare? On Medicaid? On education? On aid to the poor? On veterans’ benefits?
If you’re like most Americans, your answer to all of these questions is, “No.”
According to a recent poll, less than a quarter of Americans want the government to cut spending on these programs. Even the majority of Republican primary voters are opposed to such reductions.
Yet House Republicans recently passed a budget that significantly reduces spending for all these programs. And those same Republican primary voters are most supportive of the one candidate who has publicly endorsed this budget: Mitt Romney.
Clearly, most Americans have no idea what Romney and the author of the budget, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, stand for.
Ryan’s budget slashes spending from almost everything except Social Security and defense. Of the $5.3 trillion he wants to eliminate over the next decade, $3.3 trillion comes from programs that benefit low-income Americans: Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, job training, school lunch, etc.
Seriously, school lunch. Evidently, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney believe that the richest country in the history of the world can’t afford to provide its children with one decent meal a day.
Yet we can afford to pay the average millionaire an extra $265,000 per year. That’s how much more they’d earn if Ryan’s tax cuts became law.
Millionaires would get a raise of 12.5 percent on their after-tax income. The middle class would get a raise of less than 2 percent.
Is there an epidemic of suffering millionaires that I’m unaware of? Are they unable to pay their health insurance? Their student loans? Their mortgages?
No. Those are middle-class problems.
And they’ll become bigger problems if Ryan’s budget becomes law. Fewer Pell Grants will result in a lot more student debt, and less funding for the Affordable Care Act will rescind affordable health insurance for upwards of 30 million Americans.
Economists expect unemployment to remain high for several more years. Ryan’s solution is to fire thousands of federal employees.
Our veterans are suffering from record levels of post-traumatic stress disorder after multiple tours of duty in a war that most Americans no longer support. Ryan’s solution is to dishonor their sacrifice by skimping on their health care.
“If they can’t afford food or health care, let them die.” That should be Paul Ryan’s motto. Put that on your Mitt Romney bumper sticker.
And don’t think this is hyperbole, because they are dying. According to Harvard Medical School researchers, 45,000 Americans die every year because they lack health insurance and therefore cannot get the necessary care. According to researchers at Columbia University and the Federal Reserve, being unemployed for a year increases your odds of dying by 50 percent. Another year, and it’s 100 percent.
This is a cruel, cynical world we live in where hard-working men and women are tossed aside like road-kill for political gain.
“I’ve always resented the smug statements of politicians, media commentators, corporate executives who talked about how, in America, if you worked hard, you would become rich,” said the great historian Howard Zinn. “The meaning of that was: if you were poor, it was because you hadn’t worked hard enough. I knew this was a lie about my father and millions of others, men and women who worked harder than anyone.”
Indeed they did. This country was built on their broken backs. But Mitt Romney thinks they’re expendable — and when you go to the voting booth in November, he’s counting on you not to notice.
This op-ed was published in last Friday’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.