Those who know me well know I love to talk about politics. I find it thoroughly engrossing and like to comment on how I think one politician, policy, or movement is doing. Now, because I like to take my Journalism major seriously and because firestorms are only so much fun to deal with, I try to keep my personal politics out of my writing. I haven’t gone back and looked, but I think I’ve avoided the subject on Culture Shock until now. However, something has finally pissed me off enough to be worthy of writing about. I’d hate for this to turn into an angry and possibly violent rant but I can’t make any promises that it won’t.
Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is the chair of the House Budget Committee. What’s that, you ask? Well, basically the House Budget Committee is there to create the “Budget Resolution” which sets out a plan for spending, saving, and revenue generation for the next fiscal year. The House requires that the Budget Committee’s membership be composed of five members from the Committee on Ways and Means, five from the Committee on Appropriations, and one from the Committee on Rules. The Committee on Ways and Means is supposed to figure out how to generate revenue and the Committee on Appropriations is in charge of discretionary spending. The House Budget Committee has one main objective, as far as I can tell anyway, and that’s to come up with a budget that both cuts unnecessary and/or excessive spending and to figure out ways to generate revenue to pay for the always increasing price of our world.
However, this year’s House Budget plan that’s championed by Congressman Ryan is nothing more–keep in mind this just my opinion and not that of anyone else on Culture Shock–than a sick far right-wing joke meant to do nothing more than divide Congress even more and slow the actual solving of any of the real economic problems our country faces. I could list the many reasons I hate this budget proposal, such as the fact that it generates zero revenue at all, or that it drastically cuts social program such as Medicare for the elderly and needy, how it gives massive tax cuts to millionaires while giving nothing to the middle and lower class, or even how it has no chance of becoming law and is just a useless ploy to divide parties even more as we come into election season. I don’t have the luxury of space to go through all that because my editors will get pissed about how long this post already is.
The thing that infuriates me most about this bill is that it would cut $200 billion from the Pell Grant over 10 years. That’s right, billion with a B as in, “son of a bitch, how are we supposed to afford the already insane price of higher education?” Despite how Rick Santorum likes to call the idea of student going to college “snobbish,” I’m quite a fan of people attending college, whether it’s to get a vocational or liberal arts degree. But with a cut that massive to the Pell Grant, millions of students will lose that key federal funding so many need to go to school, myself included. The Pell Grant is already at an all time low of $5,645, which is nowhere near enough and would be susceptible to further cuts with this budget even after the initial $200 billion. Let’s keep in mind that I’m a relatively lucky student as well. I come from a middle class family where my parents help pay my tuition and yes, Mitt, there are less expensive schools available, but cutting the Pell Grant would hurt me. No, it wouldn’t kill my education but it would kill the educational chances of many kids from both lower economic class families and those who have to pay for college themselves. It would be especially devastating for those paying their own way because under the budget anyone who isn’t enrolled full-time (under 12 credits at BU) would be ineligible even though the reason many students are not eligible is because they’re working jobs to pay for their education they already can barely afford. Also, let’s not ignore that fun elephant in the room we all love to talk about. This would especially hurt poorer socio-economic areas which are statistically higher in non-white populations, even though those children deserve as much of an opportunity at higher education. From what I can tell, this budget cut would simply make the elite more elite and leave the rest of the lower and middle class grabbing for educational straws. Oh, and one last fantastic thing: the budget would allow interest rates on Stafford loans to go up to and you’d be expected to pay them back sooner because the subsidies on your loans that let you wait until graduation to pay them back would gone. So you’d get less federal funding and have to start paying back loans while still paying tuition.
This budget will never pass, at least not with a Democratic Senate and Obama around, but it is still infuriating to see that anyone would ever waste time coming up with such an obscenely poor piece of legislation. I do not want to say Paul Ryan is a bad person or evil, hell, he might be a great guy to have a beer with, but this budget is just unacceptable. The only things I can see coming from it are a worse economy, fewer educational opportunities for millions of kids, and America falling farther and farther behind in the world. I get that cuts are necessary to fix the economy, though they should be coupled with increased revenue either through taxes or something else, but education is one thing you simply cannot cut.
I think this may be a bit on the long side so let me know what you think about the budget in general, its education cuts, or any other part in the comments. Peace.