Doubling Down on an America where Corporations are Considered People and the Middle-Class Simply an Economic Drain
News reports this morning say Mitt Romney will chose Rep. Paul Ryan from Wisconsin to be his running mate. At least voters will have a very, very clear choice come November. At least, there’s no grey area here, because there’s no attempt to hide what Rep. Ryan’s priorities are for this nation. And it’s not just talk.
We’ve written about Paul Ryan’s legislative attempts to roll back programs, like Medicare and Social Security, that reflect the very core of middle-class American values of hard work, contribution and intergenerational responsibility more than we care to remember. Seems this morning is a good time to review:
The Ryan budget is likely to be the totem pole around which the coming election will be fought. It is an entirely radical piece of business. Every budget is a political document; this one, however, is a campaign document — it is a right-wing fantasy and could not possibly be enacted. It contains several aspects that Republicans will love: humongous tax cuts, focused on the wealthy; humongous budget cuts, focused on the poor. Because the spending cuts don’t outweigh the tax cuts by very much, the federal budget would not be balanced until 2040, unless there is significant tax reform, the closing of loopholes that Ryan refuses to specify.The proposed tax cuts, about $4 trillion over the next 10 years, are Republican business as usual. The real outrage lies in the budget cuts, which would reduce federal spending on everything except Social Security, health care entitlements and interest on the debt to 3.75% of gross domestic product by 2050. As the Congressional Budget Office pointed out in an evaluation requested by Ryan, federal spending in these areas has never been less than 8% of GDP since World War II. Defense spending alone has never been less than 3% during that period, and Ryan plans to increase it. As the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put it, if Ryan’s budget were enacted, “the rest of government would largely have to disappear” by 2050 — which means everything from food- and water-safety inspections to highway funds to basic research, as well as all spending on the poor. No doubt many of these programs need to be reformed and some might even be eliminated, but the cuts envisioned by Ryan are simply ridiculous.
If America’s seniors really want to get at the heart of the ongoing political debate about our nation’s economic mess and the solutions offered to change course, yesterday provided a good snapshot of what’s at stake House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan has introduced the GOP/Ryan budget and as expected it envisions balancing the budget by turning Medicare into a privatized program giving seniors a voucher (designed not to keep pace with their health costs over time) to buy private insurance. The new twist offered this year is a promise to also keep traditional Medicare as an option. Unfortunately, what that really means is private insurers will siphon-off younger-healthier seniors while older and sicker patients remain in traditional Medicare which will increase the programs costs, potentially limit doctor participation, and create a death spiral to the Medicare’s demise. Ultimately, the ideological goal of getting the government out of the business of providing healthcare for seniors will be achieved. The American Prospect offers this description:
“Most Republicans really do believe that Medicare is a vile, socialistic cancer on the American system, and things would be much better if it were privatized. The fact that Medicare works so much better than private insurance (it has far lower administrative costs, and its overall costs have been rising at a slower rate than those of private insurance), and that it’s so popular, is just all the more reason why it’s so hateful to them. Medicare validates the idea that government can do something better than the private sector, standing as a living rebuke to arguments they make in so many areas.”
And maybe this also explains while Congressman Ryan continues to conflate America’s retirees with the poor and welfare with Medicare. By lumping these programs together he attempts to paint a picture of Americans simply milking the system, which conveniently ignores the fact that workers contribute to Medicare. He did it again in yesterday’s budget news conference (25 minutes into this video): “but we don’t want to turn this safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and the intent to make the most of their lives.”
“Contrary to the lofty political rhetoric we’ve heard today, the GOP/Ryan plan is not a brave budget offered by ‘adults’. This is a budget that doubles-down on an ideological quest to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher program–stacking the deck against traditional Medicare and creating a death spiral leading to its demise. Under the GOP/Ryan plan, if seniors want the same level of coverage and access to health providers they’ve had in the past, they’ll have to pay more. If they can’t pay more, they’ll have to settle for less. At the same time, under the GOP/Ryan budget, billionaires continue to enjoy tax cuts our nation simply can’t afford. The American people, of all ages, do not believe benefit cuts for the middle class and tax cuts for the wealthy are the right course for our nation, no matter how they’re repackaged for an election year. Congressman Ryan has said his budget plan addresses a ‘moral issue’ because ‘there is right and there is wrong’. But the American people don’t believe it’s ‘right’ to cut middle class benefits to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s not ‘right’ to continually target seniors’ programs to foot the bill for an economic and fiscal crisis they did not create. Middle class Americans have already sacrificed more than their fair share with stagnant wages, plunging home values and vanishing savings. That’s why it’s simply wrong to target the average American to protect the wealthiest among us who continue to reap the benefits of decades of flawed fiscal policy. We don’t have to destroy Medicare to save it — the American people understand this and will make their views on ‘right and wrong’ abundantly clear come November.” …Max Richtman
Based on data published on his (Chairman Ryan’s) committee’s website he slashed Medicaid by more than $771 billion over 10 years, which would cut millions of poor children, seniors, and people with disabilities from eligibility. He is particularly savage on the category he lists as “other mandatory,” which includes programs such as Supplemental Assistance for Needy Families, Temporary Aid for Needy Families, and Supplemental Security Income—funding them at only 75 percent of the level the Congressional Budget Office estimates as necessary to maintain current service levels. An analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities demonstrated that more than two-thirds of his budget cuts come from programs that help low-income families. Now he’s all of a sudden concerned about the poor?So, if Rep. Ryan is not attacking the elderly for the purpose of helping the poor, why is he doing it? I think the answer is relatively simple: He needs to slash huge amounts from federal retirement programs to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy. His $5.8 trillion in overall spending cuts last year still left huge deficits because of his voracious appetite for tax cuts. Rep. Ryan proposed more than $4 trillion in tax cuts over the course of the decade, lowering the rate at which the wealthiest Americans pay taxes from the 35 percent level in the expiring Bush tax cuts to 25 percent. His plan would reduce total tax liabilities of many millionaires by more than 25 percent—to the tune of hundreds of hundreds of thousands of dollars or in some instances even millions of dollars per each millionaire.So Rep. Ryan’s March 5 column about taking from the rich (defined as old people living on more than $20,000 a year) and giving to the poor is in fact about taking from the elderly and giving to the rich—akin to a double reverse in football. Let’s hope the defensive backfield in Congress stays alert.
Of course there’s more. A lot more. But for now, this provides a glimpse into what a Romney/Ryan presidency would mean for middle-class Americans, seniors, the disabled and their families.