Guest Voz: Three Ways the Ryan Budget Hits Latinos

LatinaLista — In the national debate over our nation’s deficit, there are certain undeniable truths — the country is digging itself deeper into debt and something must be done.

Both parties have presented their budgets to help the country regain a fiscal footing. With such an important issue impacting people differently based on their income and economic standing in this country, it’s not surprising that both budgets tend to be less for every person but targeted to benefit the main base of their own party.

Critics and Wall Street hate Obama’s budget plan and see it as raising taxes unnecessarily on the wealthy and discouraging the growth of businesses, aka job creators. On the other hand, Paul Ryan’s latest budget incarnation differs little from his 2011 presentation where his path to fiscal responsibility meant having the federal government turn its back on sustaining a basic quality of life for all Americans by cutting deeply into social services that keep many of today’s working class families afloat, especially Latinos.

In the following Guest Voz, Melissa Boteach, director of the project “Half in Ten: The Campaign to Cut Poverty in Half in Ten Years,” explains how the Ryan budget would do little to help Latino families and actually lays the foundation for creating an economic apocalypse for Latinos and all working class families.

The House GOP Budget is not a plan to reduce the deficit. Rather it is a blueprint to ask low and middle-income families to finance enormous tax giveaways to the wealthy and corporations through cuts to healthcare, nutrition assistance, and investments needed to create jobs and grow the middle-class.

While these upside-down priorities will harm all Americans, they will have a disproportionate effect on Latino families by gutting supports for low-wage workers, compromising access to healthcare, and costing us jobs in industries where Latinos are more likely to work.

Overall, Latinos receive a lower share of safety net spending than their share of the population. While they represent 16 percent of the population, they only receive about 12 percent of safety net benefits. But the types of cuts in the Ryan budget would have a pronounced effect on Latino families.

For example, more than 4 in 10 Latino workers are working in jobs that don’t pay enough to keep a family out of poverty, nearly twice the rate of white workers. Yet the Ryan budget would slash the very work and income supports that help low-wage working families keep their head above water.

The House GOP budget proposal would take an axe to tax credits for working families, and slash domestic spending that contains investments such as early childhood education, housing, and nutritional supports for pregnant moms and babies. These cuts would hit Latino families especially hard. For instance, a 2005 Head Start study showed that 32.9% of Head Start children were Hispanic, and 2008 data show that Latinos represented 23 percent of public housing recipients and more than 40 percent of participants in the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program.

The House GOP Budget would also undermine the ability of Latino families to access basic healthcare by repealing the Affordable Care Act and fundamentally transforming the ability of the Medicaid program to meet the health care needs of poor, elderly, and disabled Americans.

The plan would shift costs to cash-strapped states, which would be forced to cut benefits, reduce eligibility, or raise taxes—and in some cases they’d need to do all three. This could have a dramatic effect on the Latino community, as Latinos represent 28 percent of the working parents and pregnant women on Medicaid and 22 percent of all children on Medicaid.

These types of cuts could prevent our youngest citizens from accessing the regular preventive healthcare they need to grow up into healthy adults, require low-income working parents to pay more for healthcare, and force pregnant women to forgo needed prenatal care.

Finally, the House GOP budget will further hallow out the middle-class by costing us jobs, including sectors that disproportionately employ Latinos. Not only does the budget gut investments such as infrastructure, energy, and research that are critical to creating new industries of the future, it will cause the economy to shed existing jobs in key industries.

For example, the House budget proposes $133 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The SNAP program not only helps struggling families keep food on the table, but is a big job creator, particularly in the food industry, including grocers, truckers, and agricultural workers.

The House GOP’s proposed SNAP cuts would translate into 1.8 million lost jobs over 10 years, disproportionately hitting the food industry where many Latinos are employed. In fact, using conservative estimates, Latinos make up more than 20 percent of workers in the food industry.

In short, the Ryan budget gives the short shrift to middle and low-income families in order to funnel additional tax breaks to the one percent. While these decisions will hurt all families, they will have a pronounced impact on the Latino community by slashing services they depend on, compromising their access to healthcare, and costing jobs in key industries where they are employed.

This is not only morally wrong-headed; it’s economically short-sighted.

Latino children are tomorrow’s workers and taxpayers. Investing in their families’ well-being, healthcare, and economic security represents a sound investment in America’s future. Unfortunately, the House GOP budget is more interested in channeling additional tax cuts to millionaires than in making the investments for shared economic prosperity.

Melissa Boteach is the Director of Half in Ten: The Campaign to Cut Poverty in Half in Ten Years, a project of CAP Action, The Leadership Conference, and the Coalition on Human Needs.

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