Balance the Budget — But Not Like This

By Pam Gulleson

Somewhere along the line, our leaders lost their commitment to shared prosperity and financial responsibility and became more concerned with looking out for millionaires than standing up for the middle class.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the budget plan recently outlined by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Like Ryan, I believe that reducing our debt needs to be a priority.

But unlike Ryan, I don’t believe we’ll get there by putting the burden on the backs of middle-class families, farmers, veterans and seniors.

The scheme that Ryan is proposing — and that Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., has supported — would end the Medicare guarantee.

That would shift substantial costs onto seniors, increase costs to the state and reduce access to quality care.

Ryan’s budget would give the wealthiest few Americans an average tax cut of at least $150,000 while cutting Medicare spending by an estimated $5,900 per senior citizen.

For North Dakota, a state with more than 100,000 residents on Medicare and a senior population expected to grow by 58 percent over the next 20 years, that’s unacceptable.

The plan also calls for $30 billion in cuts to farm and crop insurance and would turn the food stamp program into a block grant with a limit on funding.

Those provisions all but guarantee that there will be no farm bill this year.

For our state, which got about $1.5 billion in crop insurance indemnity payments in 2011, Ryan’s budget signals disaster for North Dakota agriculture.

Where would the farmers whose crops failed last year be without those payments?

Education — the basis of our nation’s upward mobility — would also be on the chopping block.

The plan would implement $115 billion in cuts to the Department of Education, and 9.6 million students would see their Pell Grants fall by more than $1,000 in 2014.

Currently, more than 30 percent of North Dakota college students get Pell Grants to help pay for their education.

At some North Dakota universities, that number is as high as 62 percent.

Without the funding, these students would not have access to the education they need to be able to compete in a global economy.

Furthermore, at a time when veterans who have selflessly served our country have just returned from Afghanistan and Iraq, the budget plan would cut $11 billion from veterans spending and make across-the-board spending freezes and cuts.

These veterans, many of whom rely on Veterans Affairs services, deserve better.

Not only is the Ryan budget unfair, it’s simply bad policy.

The middle class will be forced to shoulder an increasing burden, which will derail economic growth and development.

Cuts to agriculture, Medicare, education and veterans are not what our nation needs to build the future.

I’ve opposed this measure from the start, and I call on my opponents in the race for U.S. House to stand with me.

It’s time to stand up for what’s best for North Dakota.

—————-

A former North Dakota state representative, Pam Gulleson is the state Democratic-NPL-endorsed candidate for U.S. House and a Rutland resident.

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