POLITICO Column: The budget that kills the American dream
March 20, 2013
POLITICO: The budget that kills the American dream
I spent 16 years in city and state government, serving as Budget Chairman for the California State Assembly, overseeing the second largest budget in the country. I have never seen a budget that so directly attacks the American Dream as does the Republican budget. A balanced budget is our goal, but Democrats and Republicans differ on how to reach that goal. Cutting our way out of deficit reduction is the favored Republican approach, but there is another way forward for America. Democrats propose a more equitable tax system, closing loopholes for millionaires who own corporate jets and ending subsidies to big oil. The Republican budget is the wrong approach. Promising us a balanced budget in 10 years, this proposal would actually slow down our economic recovery and slash funding for education, housing and healthcare.
For struggling working poor families, the Republican budget undermines their advancement and makes it harder to build a better life for their children. While the GOP talks about spending $10 million on a grand scheme to target minority voters, they must learn that talking to Latinos doesn’t mean just talking about immigration. It means learning that Republican policies hurt people who work hard for a living and want to build a better life for their families.
This budget is their first such conversation with Latino voters and it says: “We want your vote but we don’t care about you reaching the American Dream.”
The Republican budget slashes federal student aid and Pell grants, making it more difficult for students to afford a college education. Only 13 percent of Latinos have a four-year college degree and the main reason is the financial burden of a post-secondary education. For my siblings and me, a college education was key to helping us rise into the middle class from our humble roots. My parents were farm workers and now their 10 children are all professionals. We are contributors to American society because America invested in us. That spirit of investment is how America built a strong middle class. The next generation faces a Republican majority that refuses to make that investment. The Republican budget will close the doors to higher education for Latino students, meaning far too few will have the opportunity to enter the middle class.
The Republican budget undermines another pillar of the American Dream - home ownership. During the Budget Committee debate, I offered an amendment preserving the mortgage interest deduction for the middle class. Shockingly, the amendment failed, with Republicans unanimously voting against protecting the biggest tax deduction average Americans get. When you consider how essential home ownership is to many Americans, this makes no sense.
Further, families who rely on housing programs to keep a roof over their children’s heads will also suffer. Local housing authorities all over the country will send notices to families informing them that their housing assistance will be reduced again, leaving these families to face rent increases and possible homelessness. While the housing market and construction are just starting to build new homes again, we should get back to promoting home ownership and secure housing rather than protecting unnecessary corporate tax breaks.
The Republican budget also undermines access to healthcare for many working poor families. An estimated 30 percent of Latinos lack health insurance, making them the largest group of uninsured Americans. By repealing the Affordable Care Act, the Republican budget seeks to reverse the progress we have made expanding coverage to 27 million uninsured Americans; protecting 129 million individuals with pre-existing conditions; and providing the security entrepreneurs need to start a new business. To add insult to injury, Republicans balance the budget by using the very same revenue and health savings they want to repeal.
We can all agree that we need to balance the budget but a balanced budget requires a balanced approach. Cuts are only part of the solution. We must be willing to put tax loopholes on the table. Because Republicans are unwilling to allow millionaires to pay their fair share today, the Republican budget passes this liability on to our grandchildren and places more of the burden on middle class families. Under the Republican budget, too many families will see investments in their future gutted, the cost of education rise, and access to healthcare disappear. Republicans have given us a pathway to poverty, when what we need is a road map to the American Dream, a budget that focuses on growing the middle class.
Rep. Tony Cárdenas is a Democrat from California.