No wonder he looks surprised so often.
There’s something that’s been bugging me for a while about House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), but I haven’t been able to put my finger on it. Until now, that is.
The congressman talked to Bloomberg TV this morning, and reporter Peter Cook raised the prospect of some kind of compromise with Democrats, in light of Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-Wash.) Senate Democratic budget. Take a look at Ryan’s response:
“Well, I would say to the Patty Murray school of thought to the President Obama school of thought, they’ve got their tax increases. They got $1.6 trillion in tax increases that are just now starting to hit the economy. But we have yet to get the spending cuts.”
Now, right off the bat, it’s important to note that Democrats didn’t get $1.6 trillion in tax increases. Earlier this year, they got about $600 billion in new revenue — Ryan is only off by $1,000,000,000,000 — which Republicans on the House Budget Committee found so offensive, they included the money in their own budget plan. Maybe Ryan forgot about this?
But even if we put that aside, there’s the matter of Ryan’s assertion that Republicans haven’t already successfully received spending cuts. The problem, of course, is that Ryan seems to have forgotten 2011, when Democrats accepted nearly $1.5 trillion in spending cuts, with no accompanying revenue, as part of the GOP’s debt-ceiling hostage strategy.
At the time, Ryan boasted about all the spending cuts he and his party had won by threatening to hurt Americans on purpose. Less than two years later, the far-right Wisconsinite appears to have forgotten about the policy altogether. How is that possible?
It’s not just today, either. Ryan keeps reinforcing suspicions that his memory is alarmingly bad.
Ryan doesn’t remember that he used to refer to his own plan to end Medicare as “vouchers.”
Ryan doesn’t remember taking credit for the sequestration policy he later condemned.
Ryan doesn’t remember learning about Democratic alternatives to the sequester.
Ryan doesn’t remember what happened with the 2011 “super committee.”
Ryan doesn’t remember Bill Clinton’s tax increases.
Ryan doesn’t remember the times he condemned social-insurance programs as “taker” programs.
Ryan doesn’t remember all of the times he appealed to the Obama administration for stimulus funds for his congressional district.
Ryan doesn’t remember his marathon times.
Ryan doesn’t remember how much he was inspired by Ayn Rand.
Ryan doesn’t remember his own speeches.
Everyone can be forgetful once in a while, but the Republican Budget Committee chairman seems to forget rather important details and developments so often, it’s rather unsettling.
The alternative, of course, is that Ryan’s memory is fine and he shamelessly lies when it suits his purposes, but why be uncharitable? Let’s instead just assume that the poor congressman suffers from a terrible memory.
Maybe it’s some weird political version of Changnesia?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 19, 2013
On Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisc.) released the House GOP budget, which was greeted with no small amount of incredulity for being almost exactly the same as the economic platform that he and Mitt Romney ran on in 2012 — a platform that was roundly rejected by voters who decided to go with President Obama’s proposals instead. But Ryan, retreating into rhetorical vagueness, claims to see the matter differently. “Are a lot of these solutions very popular, and did we win these arguments in the campaign?” he said. “Some of us think so.”
As has been recounted in depth elsewhere, the Ryan budget would, in all likelihood, lead to massive cuts in aid for the poor, while dramatically reducing tax rates for the wealthy. It’s hard to say with any certainty because, as Dana Milbank at The Washington Post puts it, “There are so many blanks in Ryan’s budget that it could be a Mad Libs exercise.” However, an independent analysis last year of the Ryan-Romney plan, which is similar in structure, showed that the math doesn’t add up without draconian spending cuts and closing tax loopholes for the middle class.
The smart money is that Ryan doesn’t believe his plan has a chance of passing a Democratic-controlled Senate, let alone Obama’s desk. It changes Medicare into a voucher program, strips Medicaid of a guaranteed source of federal funding, and repeals ObamaCare. “In a real way the whole thing is a sop to rank and file conservatives who haven’t come to grips with that reality,” say Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo.
Indeed, Ryan may have angered the right wing by including the fiscal cliff deal to raise taxes on the wealthy as part of his budget projections. “You wouldn’t know it from the media coverage,” says Joshua Green at Bloomberg Businessweek, “but some conservatives don’t agree that Ryan’s budget is a shockingly right-wing ‘lightning rod’ proposal — they think it’s too liberal. And they’re deeply disillusioned by what they view as Ryan’s breaking faith with the conservative movement.”
But even if Ryan’s budget dies in Congress, the fact of the matter is that it is out there, outlining the Republican Party’s economic and fiscal priorities. “Budgets are statements of values,” writes Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic. “And with this budget, Ryan, once again, has revealed what Republican values are: Cutting taxes, primarily to benefit the wealthy, while savaging programs on which the poorest Americans rely.”
In the end, with Ryan’s budget, it will only be that much harder for the Republican Party to shed its image as the party of the rich, a reform that several conservative commentators have argued is absolutely essential to winning back power. Indeed, the Ryan budget shows that Republican officials are gambling that a makeover on immigration and social issues may be enough to turn the tide — a theory that Democrats will surely be glad to test in the next election.
By: Ryu Spaeth, The Week, March 12, 2013
Unlike most unsuccessful VP candidates, Ryan’s path to continued influence meant going right back to what he was doing before.
For an ambitious politician, a spot on your party’s presidential ticket is fraught with danger. On one hand, you immediately become a national figure, and if you win, you’re vice president and you’ve got a good chance to become president. On the other hand, if you lose, you may wind up the target of contempt from forces within your own party and quickly fade away. Look at the list of recent VP losers: Sarah Palin, John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, Jack Kemp. None of them had any political future after their loss.
And then there’s Paul Ryan. You have to give him credit for one thing. Unlike, say, Palin, he didn’t let his time on the national stage give him delusions of grandeur. Instead of proclaiming himself the leader of a movement, he went right back to what he was doing before: using the budgeting process to push an extraordinarily radical agenda, all couched in enough numbers and figures to convince naive reporters that he’s a Very Serious Fellow, despite the fact that his numbers and figures are about as serious as an episode of The Benny Hill Show. But this act is what got him where he is, and he seems to have concluded, probably wisely, that his best move is to get back on that same track, which might eventually lead him to the White House.
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday last weekend, Chris Wallace asked Ryan whether he’d like to be speaker of the House one day, and Ryan responded, “If I wanted to be in elected leadership like speaker, I would have run for these jobs years ago. I’ve always believed the better place for me is in policy leadership, like being a chairman.” And he’s absolutely right. These days, being a Republican Speaker is nothing but a hassle. For Ryan, the budget is both the vehicle of his (continued, he hopes) political rise and the means of radical ideological transformation. As Ezra Klein explains well, Ryan’s budget, the latest iteration of which comes out today, is a blueprint for that ideological transformation, presented as nothing but a sober-minded effort to make “tough choices” and solve practical problems. It turns Medicare into a voucher plan, slashes spending on Medicaid and food stamps, repeals Obamacare, and cuts taxes for the wealthy. But it balances the budget! How? Well, partly by accepting the tax increases in the fiscal cliff deal (which Ryan opposed), and repealing only the benefits of Obamacare, like providing coverage to people, but keeping Obamacare’s tax increases and Medicare savings (which, you’ll remember, Ryan attacked relentlessly during last year’s campaign as an unconscionable assault on our seniors). It brings to mind the old joke about an economist stuck in a pit who says he can get out of it easily. How? “Assume a ladder.” Ryan’s budget assumes that Republicans won the White House and both houses of Congress in 2012.
And why, you might ask, is this treated with any more seriousness than a press release put out by some numbskull backbench congressman? Because Paul Ryan is a wonk, making tough choices! If Ryan weren’t so skilled at charming Washington reporters, and so shameless about the hypocrisy embedded in his plans, this kind of thing would be regarded not as some possibly questionable budget math, but as outright buffoonery, just a step or two above the Republicans who rush to the cameras whenever it snows to make lame jokes about how Al Gore is a stupid-head. But it isn’t treated that way. It’s treated the same way it was before Ryan became Mitt Romney’s running mate, as more evidence of what an intellectual leader of the GOP Ryan is. Why mess with success?
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, March 12, 2013
“Who is going to end up making all the money in the end if Obamacare continues to be in place?” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus growled Monday on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. “It’s going to be the big corporations, right? And who gets screwed? The middle class.”
The Republican Party makeover is breathtaking. Now, suddenly, instead of accusing Democrats of being “redistributionists,” the GOP is posing as defender of the middle class against corporate America — and it’s doing so by proposing to do away with the most progressive piece of legislation in well over a decade.
Paul Ryan’s new budget purportedly gets about 40 percent of its $4.6 trillion in spending cuts over ten years by repealing Obamacare, but Ryan’s budget document doesn’t mention that such a repeal would also lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy that foot Obamacare’s bill.
According to an analysis by the non-partisan Tax Foundation, Obamacare redistributes income from the wealthy to the middle class. This is mainly because it hikes Medicare taxes on the top 2 percent (singles earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000, including their investment income).
This year, for example, families in the top 1 percent will be paying about $52,000 more in Medicare taxes, on average, than they paid in 2012.
And where will the money go? Not to pay for the healthcare of poor families; most of them already receive Medicaid. The rich will be helping middle and lower-middle class Americans.
Obamacare also imposes some taxes and fees on insurance companies, drug makers, and manufacturers of medical devices. Here again, most of this will be borne by affluent Americans, who own most shares of stock (assuming the taxes and fees come out of corporate profits). And, again, beneficiaries are in the middle and lower-middle class.
In other words, Mr. Priebus has it exactly backwards. If Obamacare were repealed, who would end up making all the money? Big corporations and the wealthy. Who would get screwed? The middle class.
The rest of Ryan’s budget plan also runs counter to the new Republican thematic. Not only does it turn Medicare into vouchers (“premium support” in Republican-speak) whose value can’t possibly keep up with rising healthcare costs but it also dramatically reduces spending on education, infrastructure, and much else the middle class depends on.
Meanwhile, it redistributes upward, cutting the top tax rate for individuals down to 25 percent — a bigger tax cut for the top than even Mitt Romney proposed — and the corporate tax rate down to 25 percent, from 35 percent today.
Ryan would pay for these tax cuts by “closing tax loopholes,” but — where did we hear this before? — his budget doesn’t say which loopholes, or even hint at what it would do with rates on capital gains and dividends. Like Romney’s plan, it leaves all the heavy lifting to Congress.
The reality, of course, is that the only possible way Ryan could pay for his proposed tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations would be to raise taxes on the middle class.
Don’t expect the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, or other Republicans reading from the same talking points, to admit any of this.
But if you look at what they’re proposing rather than what they’re saying, the GOP isn’t really interested in balancing the budget at all. It’s out to redistribute income and wealth — to the best-off Americans, from everyone else.
If any party is into redistribution, it’s the Republicans. And Paul Ryan is leading the charge.
By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, March 12, 2013
If Rep. Paul Ryan wants people to take his budget manifestos seriously, he should be honest about his ambition: not so much to make the federal government fiscally sustainable as to make it smaller.
You will recall that the Ryan Budget was a big Republican selling point in last year’s election. Most famously, Ryan proposed turning Medicare into a voucher program. He offered the usual GOP recipe of tax cuts — to be offset by closing certain loopholes, which he would not specify — along with drastic reductions in non-defense “discretionary” spending.
If the plan Ryan offered had been enacted, the federal budget would not come into balance until 2040. For some reason, Republicans forgot to mention this detail in their stump speeches and campaign ads.
Voters were supposed to believe that Ryan was an apostle of fiscal rectitude. But his real aim wasn’t to balance the budget. It was to starve the federal government of revenue. Big government, in his worldview, is inherently bad — never mind that we live in an awfully big country.
Ryan and Mitt Romney offered their vision, President Obama offered his, and Americans made their choice. Rather emphatically.
Now Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, is coming back with an ostensibly new and improved version of the framework that voters rejected in November. Judging by the preview he offered Sunday, the new plan is even less grounded in reality than was the old one.
Voters might not have focused on the fact that Ryan’s original plan wouldn’t have produced a balanced budget until today’s high school students reached middle age, but the true deficit hawks in the House Republican caucus certainly noticed. They demanded a budget that reached balance much sooner. Hence Ryan’s revised plan, which claims to accomplish this feat of equilibrium within a decade.
It will, in fact, do nothing of the sort, because it appears to depend on at least one ridiculous assumption and two glaring contradictions. That’s for starters; I’m confident we’ll see more absurdities when the full proposal is released soon.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Ryan said his plan assumes that the far-reaching reforms known as Obamacare will be repealed. Host Chris Wallace reacted with open disbelief: “That’s not going to happen.”
Indeed, to take Ryan seriously is to believe that legislation repealing the landmark Affordable Care Act would be approved by the Senate, with its Democratic majority, and signed by Obama. What are the odds? That’s a clown question, bro.
As he did in the campaign, Ryan attacked Obama’s health reforms for cutting about $700 billion from Medicare over a decade, not by slashing benefits but by reducing payments to providers. Ryan neglected to mention that his own budget — the one he convinced the party to run on in 2012 — would cut Medicare by the same amount. Actually, by a little more.
This was hypocrisy raised to high art. How could anyone who claimed to be so very worried about the crushing federal debt blithely renounce $700 billion in savings? Ryan suggested Sunday that once Obamacare is repealed, this money can be plowed back into Medicare. Which, as you recall, will never happen.
While Ryan’s new budget assumes that Obamacare goes away, it also assumes that the tax increase on high earners approved in the “fiscal cliff” deal remains in place. “That’s current law,” he said, as if Obamacare were not.
Ryan’s sudden respect for a tax increase that had to be — metaphorically — crammed down Republicans’ throats is easily explained. He needs the $600 billion in revenue it produces to make his new fantasyland budget appear to reach balance.
Ryan is likely to reprise — and even augment — the hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts he proposed last year for social programs. He indicated that he still believes Medicare should be voucherized, although he objects to the word and insists that what he advocates is “premium support.” And he asserted that Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor, is “reckless” — even as tea party-approved Republican governors such as Rick Scott of Florida announce their states’ participation.
From the evidence, Ryan cares less about deficits or tax rates than about finding some way to dramatically reduce the size of the federal government. He has every right to hold that view. But it’s hard to take him seriously as long as he refuses to come clean about his intentions.
By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 11, 2013