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Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012

The Real Paul Ryan

His federal budget is terrible for Wisconsin

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The congressional budget written by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican Party's presumptive vice presidential candidate, would cut $4.2 trillion in federal spending over 10 years and have a devastating impact on Wisconsin's budget and programs—including the state's popular Medicaid programs, which provide insurance for one-fifth of the state's residents and include BadgerCare, SeniorCare and Family Care.

Ryan's budget is so radical that conservatives have joined moderates and Democrats in blasting it.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned its approach, writing in an open letter, "A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons; it requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly."

On the campaign trail last year, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich slipped up and told the truth when he called Ryan's budget "right-wing social engineering."

According to a recent study by the Institute for Wisconsin's Future (IWF), if Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future" were to go into effect next year, Wisconsin would lose $3.3 billion during 2013 and 2014, primarily through the slashing of federal funding for Medicaid, safety net assistance, transportation, education, the environment and neighborhood services.

That $3.3 billion funding loss doesn't include cuts to Medicare for seniors, which would go into effect in 10 years. Ryan plans to turn Medicare into a voucher program and raise the age of eligibility from 65 to 67.

And while Ryan and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney argue that their economic plan would promote job growth by shrinking government, Jack Norman, who conducted the study for IWF, found that Ryan's budget would jeopardize about 26,000 full-time jobs in Wisconsin.

A different study conducted by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that if Ryan's budget were in effect in 2014, Wisconsin would lose $413 million of its federal "discretionary" funding for education, clean water, law enforcement and other services. That's a 22% cut in federal funding for state and local programs—an amount that the state would have to make up in higher taxes and fees or vastly shrunken services.

The Republican National Committee in Wisconsin did not respond to the Shepherd's request to comment on the impact of Ryan's budget on the state.

Huge Cuts to BadgerCare, Food Assistance and Student Aid

According to the IWF study, in Wisconsin Ryan's budget would cut:

  • $1.6 billion from Medicaid programs, since Ryan would repeal the program's expansion in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act and slash $120 million in 2013.
  • $521 million from programs for low-income Wisconsinites, such as food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), supplemental income and child nutrition programs. About 71,000 Wisconsin households would lose food benefits in 2013 and another 34,000 households would lose them in 2014.
  • $436 million from environmental programs involving pollution control, land management and conservation in 2013 and 2014.
  • $303 million from education programs, including Pell grants and special education. IWF estimates that the number of Pell grants awarded in Wisconsin would be reduced by about 16,000 in 2013 and 44,000 in 2014.
  • $222 million from transportation projects, highway infrastructure and transit in 2013 and 2014.
  • $73 million from community development and neighborhood stabilization efforts in 2013 and 2014.
  • $68 million from agriculture programs in 2013 and 2014.


In Milwaukee County, Ryan's budget translates to a loss of $475 million in Medicaid cuts over 2013 and 2014, as well as $75 million in reduced aid for education, community programs and housing and $213 million in food, family and income supports.

Rock County, where Paul Ryan grew up, would see a loss of more than $77 million during 2013 and 2014.

Ryan's Medicaid Cuts Would Hit Seniors Immediately

Why does Ryan's "Roadmap" make such severe cuts in programs for the poor, students and the environment?

Because he wants to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and add more tax breaks for the 1%. The tax cuts for the wealthy total an estimated $4.5 trillion over a decade.

Low- and middle-income earners would pay more in federal taxes, however, under Ryan's plan.

And while Ryan and Romney are trying to claim that seniors wouldn't be affected by their plans to issue vouchers for Medicare for another decade, Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said that Ryan's cuts to Medicaid, which covers long-term care for seniors and the disabled, would kick in immediately and have a direct impact on today's older population.

Ryan plans to turn Medicaid into a block grant for states, which would not keep up with the costs of providing services. In fact, Ryan's budget would cut Medicaid support by one-third by 2022 and one-half after that.

"It's absurd to think that you wouldn't have to throw tens of thousands—hundreds of thousands—of people off of long-term care," if Ryan's plan were implemented in Wisconsin, Kraig said.