Memo to Paul Ryan: You lost.
Second memo to Paul Ryan: Elections have consequences.
Representative Ryan was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, so presumably he knows the Republican ticket lost. Yet, here he is again, proposing a budget that incorporates many of the old Republican shibboleths, only this time even more draconian than his previous budget proposals.
“So just because the election didn’t go our way, that means we’re supposed to change our principles?” Ryan asked the other day.
No, congressman, but you better consider revising them, since the voters made it clear that the wealthy ought to pay more in taxes and that Obamacare is here to stay. On the last point, you may remember, Representative Ryan, the Supreme Court also offered an opinion.
Yet Paul Ryan proposes repealing the Affordable Care Act and rolling back the top tax rate to 25 percent. Evidently, Mr. Ryan believes the winners are supposed to change their principles.
Ryan claims his proposal will balance the budget in a decade. How does he do this? According to Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, it’s simple: “The former Republican vice presidential candidate’s budget eliminates ___ loopholes in the tax code, cutting the ___ and the ____ deductions. It reduces spending on the ____ program by _____ and the _____ program by _____. Retirees would see ____, students would experience ____ and the poor would be _____.”
Those tax rates lowered to 25 percent without doing away with the mortgage-interest deduction? That’s not Paul Ryan’s concern: “Yeah, so this is what the Ways and Means Committee is going to do.”
Legerdemain is rife in Ryan’s proposal, perhaps nowhere richer than in his treatment of the president’s signature accomplishment: The Affordable Care Act. In abolishing Obamcare, Ryan guts the good stuff in it: The exchanges, the provision forbidding insurers to deny coverage for preexisting condition, and others. But since his proposal needs revenue, his budget pockets the $800 billion in new taxes Obamacare raises in the next decade. His explanation: “We are not going to refight the past, because we know that that’s behind us.”
Ryan also keeps the law’s $716 billion in Medicare savings, while voucherizing the senior health insurance system. Now, his past budgets did that as well, but during the 2012 presidential campaign Romney and Ryan excoriated the president for “raiding” Medicare to pay for Obamacare.
Well, Mr. Ryan, which time were you correct?
For all his bluster about balancing the budget, Ryan is not a deficit hawk. He has to offer proposals to balance the budget because he is under pressure from tea party members in the House caucus. But Ryan really doesn’t care about any of that; he was noticeably silent, for example, while President George Bush ran up deficits.
No, Ryan’s goal is not deficit cutting. If it were, he’d hardly propose cutting the top tax rate by more than a third. No, his object is ideological, to shrink the federal government. To do that, he proposes, in conservative parlance, to “starve the beast.” Shrink the government’s revenues, and it can’t provide health care, it can’t take care of the poor, it can’t provide a social safety net, and it can’t do a myriad of things Americans have come to take for granted, no matter how much they rail against Washington.
Ryan is a radical social reformer, cut in the Ayn Rand mold who believes the wealthy and successful are the deserving members of society, all others can fend for themselves. Ryan’s social philosophy is not very popular, which is why Newt Gingrich referred to a previous budget iteration as “right-wing social engineering.”
Ryan has come to realize that his Radian ideology scares most Americans. But he also realizes he can sneak those ideas into the discourse through the back door if they are clothed as prudent measures to prevent a trumped-up debt crisis.
Ryan claims his “Catholic faith, [what] we call the social magisterium” informs his political life. Yet past Ryan budgets have come under attack from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for relying “on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons.”
Initial reports on the social views of just-elected Pope Francis suggest he would agree with the American bishops, not with congregant Paul Ryan.