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Why Should Psychologists Care About the Ryan Budget?


By Roberta Downing, PhD (Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer, APA Public Interest Directorate – Government Relations Office)

This week, Chairman Paul Ryan of the House Budget Committee released his budget. What does this have to do with psychology? Some of the proposed policy provisions are troubling and could affect your career and your loved ones. Luckily, this budget proposal is merely a “message” document rather than anything that would become law. Regardless, it signals a vision for our country that leading policymakers like Mr. Ryan, a former Vice Presidential candidate, would work to enact if given the power.

What would the Ryan budget do?

(1)    Hurt seniors by replacing Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a “premium support” system whereby seniors would purchase private health insurance with government subsidies.

(2)    Hurt the poor by:

  1. Cutting Medicaid by $732 billion (a 26% cut over ten years), turning the program into a block grant, and undoing the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Medicaid provides health care to the most vulnerable in our society including seniors, individuals with disabilities, and low-income children.

  2. Cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly “food stamps”) by roughly $137 billion and turning the program into a block grant rather than an entitlement where anyone who is poor enough to qualify can access basic food assistance.

  3. Cutting the Pell grant program by $125 billion over ten years, making it much harder for low and moderate-income college students to afford college.

  4. Scaling back other important low-income policies, including tax credits for the working poor, school lunches, and Supplemental Security Income, which provides a basic safety net for poor seniors and people with disabilities.

(3)    Hurt middle class families by repealing the Affordable Care Act, increasing the number of uninsured by up to 40 million.

(4)    Harm education and research funding through cuts to nondefense discretionary (NDD) funding. Many NDD programs are those that come to mind when we think of the federal government, e.g., education, transportation, infrastructure, research funding, environmental protection, food and drug safety, etc.

(5)    Increase income inequality, providing $5 trillion in tax breaks for the most affluent while deriving 60% of its cuts from programs that help low-income Americans.

(6)    Increase defense spending by $483 billion over ten years.

While this budget will never be enacted, it is part of a long-term strategy for scaling back the federal government, regardless of the widespread consequences. How might these policy ideas affect you and those you care about?

  1. If you are on the academic job market, you would see fewer academic positions at public universities due to severe cuts to federal education funding.

  2. If you have children, you would also see severe funding cutbacks at your child’s school.

  3. If you conduct research, you would have to compete even harder for federally-funded research grants due to cuts to the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and other funding agencies.

  4. If you provide any kind of services to seniors or low-income families, your clients would find it increasingly difficult to access health care and other social services.

  5. If you teach or mentor low-income college students, your students would struggle harder to get college degrees amid cutbacks to Pell grants.

These are just a few examples of how the Ryan budget’s proposals would affect you—not to mention how it might affect people you care about, such as aging parents or grandparents or other family members who need help from the federal government. This is the fourth year in which Chairman Ryan has proposed draconian budget plans as part of a long-term strategy for our country. As such, we must pay attention so we are not surprised later if some of these ideas gain traction.

We want to hear from you – leave a comment.

  1. What do you think of the proposals in the Ryan budget?

  2. How might they affect you personally and professionally?

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