The New York Times
March 30, 2012
In February, after embarrassing himself by saying he was ''not concerned about the very poor,'' Mitt Romney explained that the government's safety net would take care of them, and he promised to repair any holes in the net. That promise didn't last very long. On Thursday, House Republicans approved, on a party-line vote, a disastrous new budget that would leave millions of struggling families desperate for food, shelter and health care -- and Mr. Romney has embraced it.
The budget, developed by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs over 10 years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, even more than the $2.9 trillion in Mr. Ryan's first disastrous budget last year.
''It's an excellent piece of work,'' Mr. Romney said. (Rick Santorum said it didn't cut enough.)
The biggest of the cuts would be to Medicaid, the joint federal and state program that is already gasping for money in many states that put a low priority on health care for low-income people. Mr. Romney often talks casually about turning the program over to the states entirely and simply writing a check to dispose of a half-century federal commitment. The Ryan budget exposes just how paltry that check would be: a cut of $810 billion through 2022, one-fifth of current spending, which would lead states to drop coverage for an estimated 14 million to 28 million people.
By eliminating the expansion of Medicaid in the health care law, cutting $1.6 trillion, it would leave another 17 million low- and moderate-income people uninsured.
Just as revealing is the acceptance by Mr. Romney and the other Republican presidential candidates of the Ryan plan to cut food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The budget would cut 17 percent of the SNAP budget, or $133.5 billion over a decade. As the center points out, there are only two ways to achieve that savings: Mr. Romney could simply take the benefits away from 8 million of the 47 million who now receive them, or he could cut everyone's benefits. For a struggling family of four, that would mean a loss of $90 worth of food a month.
Already, most people who get SNAP benefits use them up in the first two weeks of a month, and many turn to food banks by month's end. Cutting benefits so sharply would lead to a significant increase in hunger, particularly among children, which would quickly create dangerous ripples through the health and education systems.
At the same time, though, those families would find themselves unable to pay for health care, and they would also face reductions in housing assistance, job training and Pell grants for college tuition, all of which Mr. Ryan wants to cut, with Mr. Romney's approval.
In all, 62 percent of the budget's cuts come from low-income programs, and that's on top of the substantial cut in spending already in place from last year. But the Ryan budget does contain a substantial tax cut for the rich, which is one of the reasons Mr. Romney said he was ''very supportive'' of the plan.
''It's a bold and exciting effort,'' he said, ''and it's very much consistent with what I put out earlier.'' It is also consistent with his stated lack of concern for the very poor.