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The Ryan Budget: Know Your Enemy

Someone needs to check the Headbanger of the House
by Lou Dubose

Dec 29, 2015 | Economy, Politics, The Interval


Photo: Jory Heckman

Hey yo, so check this out!
Know your enemy!

–Rage Against the Machine


Before he was Speaker, before he grew the Hugh Jackman beard, before we knew he was a Rage Against the Machine fan and that his playlist “starts with AC/DC and ends with Zeppelin,” Paul Ryan was a budget wonk.

As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan created a series of biennial federal budgets for successive Congresses, each entitled “The Path to Prosperity.”

None was ever signed into law because a) there are enough Democrats in the Senate to block them and b) because Barack Obama would veto any Ryan budget that might cross his desk.

Take a moment to think about that second factor, in this context:

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley has advanced a theory about the role of a 21st- century Democratic president. As Brinkley describes it, one important role is essentially curatorial. Unable to push major legislation through a Congress dominated by the Republican Party, the president stands as a firewall between Congress and the safety-net policies enshrined in FDR’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.

That’s what this presidential election is about. Tom Price now chairs the Budget Committee, but the Ryan budget lives, under the same Path to Prosperity rubric.

Obama has been a “progressive firewall against an energized Republican Party,” Brinkley told me––and a big part of that was blocking the Ryan budget.

Don’t look for a firewall when President Trump, Cruz, Rubio, or Christie is elected.

Here are a few items from Paul Ryan’s Path to Austerity, er, Prosperity, budget.

  • College Student Aid. Since 1972, Pell Grants have represented the nation’s commitment to college funding for low-income American students. Based strictly on need, they are grants that do not have to be repaid. The Ryan budget would begin with a 7.5 percent reduction in grants that would ramp up to 22 percent by 2022. Funding of Pell Grants will be discretionary rather than mandatory.
  • Health Care for the Elderly. Over the years, Ryan’s budgets have targeted Medicare, offering in its stead a voucher program for retirees using the federal/state health insurance program. Retirees would be offered the option to receive government vouchers to buy health care in the private market. Consider it the opposite of the public-option, single-payer plan that we never got in the Affordable Care Act. The tens of millions of retirees who opt to stay in the traditional Medicare program will pay higher premiums as funding is siphoned away.
  • Health Care for the Poor. The budget would repeal the Medicaid expansion provision in the Affordable Care Act, which has extended the low-income health insurance program to 6 million, though only 31 states (and the District of Columbia) have signed on. (Republican governors and legislatures in 20 states are holding out.)

But wait: There’s more. Food stamp funding would be reduced. As would funds for unemployment insurance. The various iterations of the Ryan budgets have gone after Social Security from different angles.

And not only budgets will be cut. Taxes, too, will come down. Those who would prosper most along this Path to Prosperity are the wealthiest Americans, whose tax rates would fall from 39.6 percent to 25 percent. And big corporations, which would see tax rates decline from 35 percent to 25 percent.

Democratic politicians who make these arguments are accused of engaging in the politics of fear.

Be afraid.

And rage against Ryan’s machine.

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  1. Stop the maddness! And consider the fact that middle class need a break for once just to survive!

  2. What are you going to do with all the homeless hungry people that will dominate this country under your budget plan Mr. Ryan? Can you even answer that question?

  3. Who protects us? Talking to our Tx right wing extremist GOP leaders is like talking to a wall. Extremists like Ted Cruz hide behind Christian values and are like false prophets and over and over they wag the dog and propagandize and distort reality and they fool weak minded people. How are these right wing extremists not like the Taliban? They are destructive and will do anything to get what they want. They mix church and state, hurt women and hate and fear anyone different. We need to vote out pretenders, false prophets and get money and religion out of politics. We need to stand up for good leaders who act justly and who love mercy! Bad leaders are bringing us down and hurting us all!

  4. It seems to me that Congress is more concerned with criticizing and combatting the President than performing to their Constitutional job description in working together in behalf of the American people. In my view, Congress is a failed institution. And, when it comes to money and budgets and such, consider the financial context of the individual Congressman, such as Paul Ryan. Consider his salary, benefits and retirement plan and imagine how sensitive he might be to the poor and homeless in America and how his context will influence this thing called The Ryan Budget.

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