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“Ryan’s America”: Here’s How Much It Would Hurt To Be Poor Under Paul Ryan’s Budget

There are many different ways to talk about Paul Ryan’s Roadmap, but maybe the most useful is to imagine how his budget affects your budget.

How much more money would you keep under his broad tax plan? How much more would you have to save to pay for health care?

And for the low-income, whom—as we’ll see—bear the brunt of Ryan’s cuts: How alone would they be in Ryan’s America?

But let’s start with a bit of basic arithmetic.

There are two ways that the government’s budget can affect yours. Clearly, one is taxes. More than 80 percent of government revenues comes from individuals’ wages and income. (The rest comes from corporate taxes and things like excise taxes on gasoline, which also affects our budgets, but less directly.)

Two is spending. Although most of us might think of government as providing public goods like airports and security, $3 out of every $5 Washington spends is basically insurance—a transfer to those who are old, sick, and poor. Social Security writes checks equal to 20% of government outlays. Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP account for another 20%. Safety net programs and benefits for veterans and federal retirees account for another 20%.

So, a full accounting of how Ryan’s budget would affect your budget must consider how much he would cut our taxes and how much he would cut our transfers.

TAXES. Ryan cuts income tax rates and abolishes investment taxes to reduce government revenues by about $450 billion* per year over the next ten years. (That’s after he makes permanent the Bush/Obama tax cuts.)

We don’t know exactly how Ryan’s tax cuts would break down by family income level, but the Tax Policy Center has published an estimate based on the Ryan-inspired budget passed by the House of Representatives this year. The upshot is that the federal income tax code—the one highly-progressive part of our tax system—would become significantly less progressive. Taxes would barely change (or even rise) on the low-income Americans, and the top 1% would see a windfall from the elimination of taxes on most of their investment income.

“Those making $1 million or more would enjoy an average tax cut of $265,000 and see their after-tax income increase by 12.5 percent,” TPC found. “By contrast, half of those making between $20,000 and $30,000 would get no tax cut at all.”**

SPENDING. Ryan is most famous for his Medicare plan, but if his budget became law at midnight tomorrow, the most dramatic changes over the next ten years would be everything but Medicare. That’s because Ryan’s long-term plan to move Medicare from a defined-benefit fee-for-service system (where government is your insurance) to a defined-contribution system (where government writes you a check to help you pay somebody else for insurance) is truly a long-term plan. It wouldn’t begin to take effect until the early 2020s. The typical family might prepare for a more modest Medicare by putting more money away. They might leave more of their salaries in a savings account. They might invest in the stock market, with the understanding that any gains wouldn’t be taxed. They might use their modest income gains to buy a house, with the intention to sell at a tax-free gain later.

Ryan slashes deeply, but he spares defense and Social Security, which, together, account for 40% of the budget. That means his $4 trillion in cuts come mostly out of health care spending, income security spending, and basic government duties. By 2023, Ryan would spend 16 percent less than Obama on income security programs like unemployment benefits and food stamps. He would spend a quarter less on transportation, and 13 percent less per veteran, according to Brad Plumer.

Medicaid spending would be shaved by about a third, and the Urban Institute calculated that a similar proposal would force the states to drop between 14 million and 27 million people from Medicaid by 2021 (note: that’s an extreme prediction). It’s not clear exactly what programs would be cut, or by exactly how much. What is clear is that everything within the bundle of government responsibility—from subsidizing science research to subsidizing education to keeping up national parks and law enforcement—would come under pressure for cuts to make room for the massive and regressive cuts to taxes.

What does that budget mean for your budget? It rather depends where you fall on the income ladder. Romney is relieving the richest Americans from some of their duties to pay for the risk-protection of the poor, and he is asking some of the poorest Americans to accept less help from the government in exchange for … well, the virtue of independence from government. It is stark, but broadly accurate, to say that the less you benefit from Ryan’s tax cuts, the more you would potentially suffer from Ryan spending cuts. It is possible—and, in Ryan’s vision, duly hope for—that devolving responsibilities from the federal government to the states and the private sector will drive efficiencies. But, as the GOP likes to point out about the president, “hope is not a policy,” and it is definitely not an inevitability.

Remember when Romney said he’s “not concerned about the very poor” because there’s a safety net for them? Well, there wouldn’t be the same safety net after Ryan’s plan took root. Romney doesn’t have to embrace every detail of Ryan’s plan, and he won’t. But he has embraced the philosophy of Ryan’s vision: That true freedom means freedom from government dependency, and that the poor are somehow richer, in spirit or in literalness, if they take less money from the government. Ryan believes that his budget could unlock spectacular growth and increase lower-income wages. And it might! But most of what we know about the impact of technology, emerging markets, and off-shoring suggests that gaping income inequality is a side-effect of global capitalism more than an outcome of progressive government.

This budget would have a very predictable outcome: It would make poor families poorer, and more exposed to the risks of medical or financial calamity, all under the banner of “Responsibility And Freedom.” Ryan is free to march under his banner. But don’t ask me to call it responsible.

 

By: Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, August 14, 2012

August 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Women Don’t Want”: Paul Ryan’s Budget Deals A Body Blow To Women’s Bottom Line

You’d have to live under a rock to miss the news on Saturday morning that Mitt Romney has picked Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate. The announcement immediately kicked up a flurry of speculation: what does Ryan bring to the ticket that Romney wants? One thing he does not bring: women’s votes. Mitt Romney has been dogged by a problem with female voters, lagging in their support far behind President Obama, particularly among single women. But where Romney has been vague and flip-floppish on many issues, Ryan has long been very clear about his staunch support for policies that will hurt women economically.

Most people know Paul Ryan for his budget plans. There’s plenty of pain to be found in his budget for the lower and middle class, but women in particular make out poorly (literally) if his budget gets a presidential signature. Add in other policies he’s proposed or supported, and the picture becomes even bleaker. Here’s why:

1. Medicaid is crucial to women’s health. It provides coverage to nearly 19 million low-income women, meaning that they make up 70 percent of the program’s beneficiaries. Any slashing of Medicaid’s rolls will therefore fall heavily on their shoulders.

And Paul Ryan’s policies would do just that. Ryan’s budget slashes Medicaid by more than twenty percent over the next ten years and turns it into a block grant to states, letting them spend the money as they wish – as opposed to the current form in which states have to follow certain rules in how the money is spent. The Urban Institute estimated that the block grant plan alone would lead states to drop between 14 and 27 million people from Medicaid by 2021.

On top of that, Ryan’s budget repeals the Affordable Care Act, and with it the Medicaid expansion that some states are already threatening to refuse. Without that expansion, 17 million people will be left without Medicaid coverage. Women will again be hurt by this outcome: 13.5 million were expected to get health insurance coverage under the expansion by 2016. A Ryan budget would ensure they stay unprotected.

2. Social Security is another crucial safety net program that women disproportionately rely on. It is virtually the only source of income for about a third of female beneficiaries over 65. (Compare that to less than a quarter of men.) Without it, half of those women would live in poverty.

Ryan’s budgets haven’t called for specific cuts to the program, although his first version favorably cited the cuts proposed by the Simpson-Bowles report. But before he was known for chart-filled budgets, he put his name to a plan to partially privatize Social Security by having workers divert about half of their Social Security payroll-tax contribution to a private retirement account. Remember how well 401(k)s fared during the recent financial crisis when stocks took a nosedive? That could happen again – and the women who rely on Social Security benefits could be left without anything to fall back on.

3. One more big social safety net program that women rely on: Medicare. The majority of Medicare beneficiaries are women, and twice as many women over age 65 live in poverty as compared to men.

Ryan’s budget plan would raise the eligibility age for Medicare to sixty-seven while repealing the ACA, leaving those between ages sixty-five and sixty-seven with neither Medicare nor access to health insurance exchanges or subsidies to help them buy coverage. That will leave low-income people with nowhere to turn except the pricey private insurance market at an age when health care is crucially important. Come 2023 his plan would also replace Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with payments to the elderly to buy coverage from private companies or traditional Medicare. The problem is that the payments would increase so slowly that spending on the average sixty-seven-year-old by 2050 could be reduced by as much as forty percent as compared to now. That’s not going to go very far toward getting the elderly health coverage.

4. There are other huge pieces of the social safety net that women rely on that Ryan would unravel if given the chance. Beyond all the above cuts, his budget plan would spend about sixteen percent less than President Obama’s budget on programs for the poor. This includes slashing SNAP, or food stamps, by $133.5 billion, more than seventeen percent all told, over the next decade.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, women were over sixty percent of adult SNAP recipients and over sixty-five percent of elderly recipients in 2010. Plus over half of all households that rely on SNAP benefits were headed by a single adult – and over ninety percent of them were women.

5. His budget would also cut TANF, the program that replaced welfare, and Supplemental Security Income by $463 billion. Nearly nine in ten adult beneficiaries of TANF were women in 2009 – over eighty-five percent.

6. Given that his budget plan gets over 60 percent of the $5.3 trillion in nondefense budget cuts from support for low-income Americans, there are a host of other programs women rely on that would see huge cuts. Child care assistance, Head Start, job training and housing and energy assistance would likely see a $291 billion cut. Cuts to childcare and Head Start will disproportionately impact working mothers. But other programs also greatly benefit women. Take housing support. The Housing Choice Voucher program provides families with rental assistance, and over 80 percent of households receiving that support are headed by women.

7. There are plenty of other ways that Ryan’s ultra conservative views could impact women financially beyond his severe budget and policy proposals. His views on contraception are from another century. He’s against the ACA’s mandate that religious employers provide insurance coverage for birth control. He’s also opposed to federally funded family planning services. He voted to deny birth control coverage to federal employees in 1999 and has voted at least four times to defund Planned Parenthood, a key provider of contraceptives, particularly for low-income women. He also supports the “personhood” movement, which writes bills defining conception as the beginning of life that would likely outlaw some forms of birth control.

This is not just a social issue. This is an economic issue for millions of women. Research has shown a clear link between women’s ability to control their fertility thanks to contraception and increased female employment. In 1950, 18 million women were in the workforce. Since then, the pill has become widely available and widely used, and that number has tripled to 66 million. Ryan threatens to set us back by at least half a century and make it that much harder for women to get into the workforce.

8. On top of this, he’s no supporter of equal pay for equal work, voting against the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which gives women more time to file lawsuits when they believe they’ve been discriminated against by an employer. The gender wage gap means that the typical woman loses $431,000 over a forty-year career as compared to her male peers.

On Feministing, Vanessa Valenti points out that there are plenty of other ways that Paul Ryan’s policies are a nightmare for the country’s women – from opposing Roe v. Wade to voting against marriage equality to being terrible on immigration issues. One thing is for sure: if Romney’s new running mate is voted in as second in command and his ideas guide the next administration, women can expect a lot of economic pain.

 

By: Bryce Covert, The Nation, August 13, 2012

August 15, 2012 Posted by | Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Not Just A One Trick Pony”: Paul Ryan Is More Than Just A Guy Who Wants To End Medicare

Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s new vice-presidential pick, is best known as the author of and lead cheerleader for a budget plan that would decimate the social contract and require the middle class to pay for massive tax breaks for the wealthy. But it would be a mistake to focus just on his horrible economic ideas. Paul Ryan is not just a one-trick pony.

For instance, while Ryan preaches Ayn Rand’s gospel of economic greed and personal freedoms, he isn’t so fond of individual freedom when it comes to gay people or women. In fact, when it comes to reproductive choice, Ryan is nostalgic for the 1950s. He co-sponsored a so-called “Personhood bill,” which would classify abortion as first-degree murder and outlaw some of the most common types of birth control. A similar bill in Mississippi was rejected last year by 55 percent of voters. That’s right: on reproductive freedom and birth control, Paul Ryan is to the right of Mississippi.

That’s not even to mention Ryan’s support for last year’s “Let Women Die” bill, which would have allowed hospitals to refuse abortions to women, even if their lives were at risk. He also voted, along with most of his Republican House colleagues, to completely eliminate Title X, the program that provides family-planning services, including affordable contraception, to low-income women.

In a rambling essay in 2010, Ryan asserted that Roe v. Wade was a Supreme Court error “virtually identical” to the Dred Scott decision, in which the court ruled that African Americans had no rights as citizens. If Romney’s pick of Robert Bork to head his judicial advisory committee wasn’t clue enough, we now know exactly what would happen to reproductive rights under a Romney-Ryan administration.

Ryan had one brush with support for gay rights back in 2007, when he voted for an early version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a few minutes after voting to kill the bill. But since then, he’s fallen in line with the Right, opposing future versions of ENDA, hate crimes protections, adoption by gay couples, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military and of course anything resembling marriage equality. Now he feigns indifference to the whole issue, saying, “I don’t know why we are spending all this time talking about this.” He should ask a few LGBT people why we’re spending time “talking about this”: they might be able to explain why the issue of equal rights is more than a distraction from his plan to gut Medicare.

And then there are the other issues where the Corporate Right and the Religious Right have conveniently found themselves in agreement. Ryan is in the distressingly large “if it’s snowing out, global warming can’t be real” camp, or what the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer calls a “biblical view of the environment.” He speaks the language of the Religious Right’s pick-and-choose approach to the Constitution, saying in his nomination acceptance speech, “Our rights come from nature and God, not government. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes” — code for a Christianist government and the destruction of the social safety net, the twin goals of today’s unified Corporate and Christian Right.

Ryan not only speaks the language of the Religious Right, he is one of them. Ryan is a confirmed speaker at the upcoming Values Voter Summit, a yearly confab hosted by the anti-gay, anti-choice Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel and American Family Association. There, he’ll join right-wing luminaries including anti-Muslim activist and conspiracy theorist Jerry Boykin, anti-Planned Parenthood prankster Lila Rose, and Kamal Saleem, who bills himself as a reformed ex-terrorist… and who is widely considered to be a fraud. The event is a must-attend for candidates who want to appeal to the farthest extremes of the Religious Right, which clearly Romney and Ryan are more than happy to do.

Paul Ryan has a friendly demeanor and an earnest desire to make his case about his terrible economic policy. But we shouldn’t let his focus on turning Medicare into a coupon distract us from the fact that he also wants to bring women’s rights and gay rights back decades and cater to those who think the government should be run exclusively by and for evangelical Christians.

Paul Ryan is the whole package: massive tax cuts for billionaires on the backs of the middle class, plus the Religious Right’s wish list of regressive social policies. In his choice of Paul Ryan, Massachusetts Mitt has sent a rare unambiguous signal about where he wants to take this country. And it’s nowhere we should want to go.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, August 14, 2012

August 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Mitt Romney’s Terrible Laugh”: He Knows What He’s Saying Is Utter Baloney And He Knows That We Know

Some public figures get defined by a single image, or a single statement (“Ask not what your country can do for you”; “I am not a crook”). Others have a characteristic linguistic tic or hand gesture that through repetition come to embody them; think of Ronald Reagan’s head shake, George W. Bush’s shoulder-shimmy, or that closed-fist-with-thumb-on-top thing Bill Clinton used to do.

For Mitt Romney, it’s the laugh. I’m sure that at times Romney laughs with genuine mirth, but you know the laugh I’m talking about. It’s the one he delivers when he gets asked a question he doesn’t want to answer, or is confronted with a demand to explain a flip-flop or a lie. It’s the phoniest laugh in the world, the one New York Times reporter Ashley Parker wrote “sounds like someone stating the sounds of laughter, a staccato ‘Ha. Ha. Ha.'” Everything Mitt Romney is as a candidate is distilled within that laugh—his insincerity, his ambition, his awkwardness, and above all his fear. When Mitt laughs that way, he is not amused. He is terrified. Because he knows that what he’s saying is utter baloney, and he knows that we know it.

So he pretends to find it hilarious that an interviewer wants him to explain why, say, Romneycare was great for Massachusetts but the nearly identical Obamacare is a Stalinist horror for America. Perhaps it is the pain of enacting this facsimile of delight so many times that has hardened Mitt’s heart and allowed him to run what has become a campaign of truly singular dishonesty. But whatever moral calculation underlies the decisions he makes, this is the place we have arrived: There may have never been a more dishonest presidential candidate than Mitt Romney.

I say “may,” because measuring dishonesty with any precision is an extraordinarily difficult challenge, perhaps an impossible one. But by almost any standard of mendacity we could devise—the sheer quantity of lies, the shamelessness with which they are offered, the centrality of those lies to the candidate’s case to the voters—Romney has made enormous strides to outdo his predecessors.

It started before he even began his campaign, when Romney wrote an entire book premised on a lie about Barack Obama. Romney’s pre-campaign book, called No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, was built on the idea that Barack Obama makes a habit of apologizing for America, and Mitt Romney would do no such thing. “Never before in American history,” Romney wrote, “has its president gone before so many foreign audiences to apologize for so many American misdeeds, both real and imagined.” The actual number of times Barack Obama has gone before a foreign audience to apologize for American misdeeds is zero, as has been extensively documented. Undaunted, Romney began his campaign by repeating the lie of the Obama “apology tour” hundreds of times, before audiences all across the land.

And that was just the beginning. If you have the better portion of a day, you could wade through the lengthy catalogue of deceptions blogger Steve Benen has assembled under the heading “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity.” Periodically, Benen puts together 20 or so Romney falsehoods for a post; his latest installment is the 29th in the series.

They come in all shapes and sizes. Some of things Romney says are clearly, factually false and seem to come out of no place other than the “this is the kind of thing a socialist like Obama would do” corner of Romney’s imagination, as when he claimed that Obama raised corporate tax rates (nope), or alleged that “President Obama is shrinking our military and hollowing out our national defense” (the military budget has increased every year Obama has been in office). Others are bizarrely false, as when he has said multiple times that the Obama administration hasn’t signed any new trade agreements (since Obama took office we have new trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Columbia). Others sound like they just popped into his head and felt true, even though they’re utterly wrong (“We are the only people on the earth that put our hand over our heart during the playing of the national anthem”). Some things he says are technically matters of interpretation, but are so absurd that no honest person could say them, as when he claims that under Obama, “we’re only inches away from no longer being a free economy.” Others are seductively specific, yet completely made up (“Obamacare also means that for up to 20 million Americans, they will lose the insurance they currently have, the insurance that they like and they want to keep”).

But what is truly notable is how often Romney has put a lie at the center of his campaign. It’s one thing to say something false in passing, perhaps when speaking extemporaneously. It’s something else to tell a lie, then repeat it again and again on the stump, then put it in a television ad broadcast across the country, then send your surrogates out to repeat it to every camera they can find.

As you’ve no doubt seen, few of Romney’s lies concern himself. He may gild a lily here and there about his record and his past, but the overwhelming portion of his deceptions are about Barack Obama—what he has said, what he has done, and what he believes (whenever you hear Romney say, “Barack Obama believes …” you can be certain he is about to say something ridiculously untrue). The new Romney attack on welfare—falsely claiming that the Obama is eliminating work requirements in the program—is only the latest, but it’s hardly the first. Before that it was “you didn’t build that,” which set a new standard in deceptive use of an out-of-context quote. Before that were a hundred smaller lies about taxes, health care, the economy, foreign policy, and nearly every other subject that could possibly come up. One wonders if at some level Romney thinks he hasn’t compromised his integrity if he only makes things up about his opponent.

This is Mitt Romney’s own sin, of course, but it’s also a failure of journalism. If reporters were really doing their jobs, they would be able to provide enough of a disincentive for lying that no candidate would feel free to mislead so brazenly and so often. They wouldn’t mince words or fall back on false balance, but would forthrightly say that Romney is lying when the facts make clear he is. And so they might provide some punishment that would actually make Romney think twice before the next time he approves an ad script that says things that aren’t true.

I doubt it’ll happen. But if reporters decide that they really need to be more direct about Romney’s mendacity, they may start confronting him about it, in some of the rare non-Fox interviews to which he consents. Should that time come, Romney will no doubt laugh. “Ha,” he’ll say. “Ha. Ha. Ha.”

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 14, 2012

August 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another Republican Insult”: Paul Ryan’s Dangerous Obsession With Ayn Rand

Honestly, grown men who swear by Ayn Rand might be locked up inside the house—and not the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan. I mean back home in Janesville, Wis., where your new stature as presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate has raised a hullabaloo all the way up to Baraboo. The venerable Alan Greenspan should be put under honorary house arrest, too, for his lifelong disciple-like embrace of Rand’s ideas, which has cost the country more dearly than we shall ever know.

As chairman of the Federal Reserve during four presidencies, Greenspan displayed a laissez-faire ferocious faith in the free marketplace. This caused him to completely ignore signs of the economy going soft and awry on his watch. Remember when the dot com bubble burst?

The late Rand’s entrance into this presidential election, thanks to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, is more serious than it seems. Sweet reason has a hard time with Rand glorifying selfishness as political doctrine. Now that “selfishness ethic” happens all the time, accompanied by vicious attacks on the federal government and people who work for it, in the Republican-run House. It’s not all the author’s fault, but Ryan’s devotion to Rand is yet another Republican insult and injury to classic American ideas of fairness, squareness, and civic-mindedness.

In fact, the Ryan-authored House Republican budget document, which cuts the heart out of our body politic, ripping social services and Medicare to shreds, is a pledge to the Rand coat of arms, standing against people who need a little help from other people. And in turn, Rand gives him a rationale for the intellectual poverty of his ideas.

I don’t know grown women mean enough to believe in Rand’s lunar-like worldview. Her “objectivism” is portrayed in glittering novels, including We The Living, Atlas Shrugged, and The Fountainhead. Then again, she was not much interested in reaching women. Let’s be real: In life and work, this woman cared about having men in her thrall. She succeeded beyond what you might expect of a nice girl from St. Petersburg, born in 1905.

Trouble was, she got stuck in the Russian Revolution upheaval at an impressionable age. Scarred by communist collective ideals and the violence of change, she created the uber-capitalist myth of the strong man standing alone years after emigrating to the United States as a young woman. She also worked as a screenwriter.

Some would say Rand actually devolved from Social Darwinism. As despicable as her influence is, Greenspan can say he was caught up in a vanguard of his younger days, when the Soviet Union set off waves of alarrm and opposition to Communism as practiced by the ruthlesss Joseph Stalin.

But Ryan, 42, has lived his life on the right side of the tracks in the serene peace of Janesville, so why is he so sharp-edged with our social contract? So far, his mark on the 2012 race is allowing Rand to skip down two generations, from the octogenarian Greenspan to himself. Rand died in 1982, but hey, she lives on in a real way to this day.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, August 14, 2012

August 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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