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The Ryan budget – Does it impact the LGBT community?

August 31, 2012

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chair of the House Budget Committee, has proposed a federal budget plan that has been widely discussed in the news recently. This budget would dramatically cut social benefits and disproportionately burden low-income Americans. We decided to take a closer look at the Ryan budget and find out how it affects the LGBT community.

Before we get in to the specifics of the Ryan budget, some framing is needed. Notably, the Ryan budget doesn’t specifically target LGBT individuals. Why, then, does the Ryan budget plan have a disproportionate impact on LGBT people? Because LGBT people are more likely to live in poverty, lack health insurance and rely on public assistance programs than the general population, a budget plan that eliminates social safety net protections for low-income people has an especially great impact on the LGBT population. Our community experiences discrimination in housing, employment, income, and relationship recognition, and these factors increase the need for LGBT people to use programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

For example:

  • Lesbian couples over 65 are twice as likely to live in poverty as heterosexual couples of the same age, making Medicare cuts particularly worrisome.
  • According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), transgender people are four times more likely to earn under $10,000 a year than the general population.
  • NTDS respondents were unemployed at twice the rate of the general population. NTDS respondents of color were unemployed up to four times the rate of the general population.
  • 48% of NTDS respondents had postponed medical care because they couldn’t afford it.
  • 20% of female same-sex couples are raising children and living in poverty, compared to 9 percent of married heterosexual couples.
  • 21.1%: The poverty rate of black lesbian couples versus 4.3% for white lesbian couples and 14.4% for black gay male couples.

Here is what the Ryan budget does for programs that affect the low-income and elderly:

  • Cut taxes for those earning more than $200,000 a year, including very large tax cuts for millionaires, while raising taxes on people earning less than $30,000 a year.
  • Raise the minimum age to access Medicare from 65 to 67 and turn Medicare into a voucher system that would decline in value over time. This would force seniors to pay about $6,000 more per year for coverage comparable to Medicare today.
  • Cut $3.3 trillion from programs aiding people who earn incomes below or just above the poverty line ($22,113 a year for a family of four in 2010), including dramatic cuts in support for food stamps, Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Remove provisions of the Affordable Care Act, effectively eliminating free health care screenings and increasing the cost of prescription drugs for seniors.

Promoting the economic health and wellbeing of LGBT people requires a strong social support system. LGBT people are vulnerable to employment discrimination and are less likely to receive family support, increasing economic vulnerability. Further, LGBT people often lack formal relationship recognition that offers economic support to families.

The Task Force has long advocated for a strong social safety net that ensures LGBT people living in poverty and older LGBT adults have access to the programs they need. Some of these harmful budget proposals could be taken up again by the House when it reconvenes in the fall and it’s important that they know where we stand.

Contact your representatives and ask them to oppose the Ryan proposals. Let them know we believe this country needs a budget that maintains and supports health and dignity. With a larger percentage of the U.S. population living in poverty today than any point since 1994 now is not the time to pull away the programs that support programs and services that nourish this country. Tell Congress we need a budget based on investment in human infrastructure and one that attends to the needs of our most vulnerable populations.

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