The GOP’s go-to guy for swinging the budget hatchet fearlessly at the middle class, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (it would be Wisconsin, wouldn’t it?) has released the House majority party’s budget plan for the future. He calls it the “Path to Prosperity,” but it would be more accurate to call it the “Path to Continued Prosperity for Wealthy Men at the Expense of Everyone Else.”
The biggest losers in Ryan’s plan? Women. Let’s look.
The plan calls for an end to Medicare as we now know it (but not until later. We wouldn’t want to piss off the current crop of seniors. They vote Republican.) Specifically, instead of guaranteed health care coverage for the elders among us, Ryan will provide health care vouchers that they can apply to private insurance plans in a federally regulated exchange. (Does this sound a lot like the Republican-reviled “Obamacare”? It’s different when they do it, I guess.) Of course, the vouchers will cover only a small percentage of the cost of care for seniors, so a huge chunk of their income (or all of it, according to some analysts) will be taken up with medical costs. Cat food for dinner, anyone?
Here is a chart showing the gender breakdown of Medicare enrollees. Nationally, it is 56% women, 44% men. In some states the skew is even greater. In Washington D.C., 63% of Medicare enrollees are female. Women live longer and are more likely to live in poverty. Of course, that life-span gap may close when Mr. Ryan leaves elderly women without health care.
Medicaid would also be fundamentally changed under Ryan’s Path. This critically important safety net provides health care for poor people below retirement age. The feds will distribute block grants to states to spend on Medicaid, a fixed amount, rather than the more responsive formula now in place. This shifts the burden of providing care to the indigent further onto the already-strapped states. The only possible result is reducing eligibility and shoving people out of the program.
Who depends on Medicaid? Women, mostly. Here’s a fact sheet from North Carolina, for example. Medicaid recipients are 61% female.
Further details about the plan have been sketchily reported, but Ryan’s axe hits every social service and safety net. America’s poor have been living cushy lives, and the GOP is going to make sure they sacrifice for the common good just like the middle class and…well, that’s it.
One big expenditure left untouched is defense. You can argue whether defense should or should not be cut in all sorts of ways, but I just want to point out, for the record, that the government workers who fall under the defense category are primarily male, while the majority of government workers who are going to lose their jobs under the Path to Poverty for Government Workers are female.
Now, the news isn’t all bad. There’s good news for the highest income earners—the top marginal tax rate will be cut from 35% to 25%! Mr. Ryan helpfully explains that tax revenues will remain stable because “loopholes” will be closed. What loopholes, where? He doesn’t say. Shall we guess? Perhaps the deductions that help middle class and working class families—like mortgage deductions and childcare credits? Do I need to point out that most earners in the top tax bracket are male? No, I didn’t think so.
Don’t worry about this too much, because the result of throwing hundreds of thousands of government employees out of work, plunging old ladies into poverty, and helping rich men get richer will be, according to the Heritage Foundation, a robust economy and an unemployment rate of 2.8%. And if you make a circle with stones in your garden and wish very hard, the fairies will bring you a pony.