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“Feeding The Gullible Beltway Media”: The Delusional And Dangerous Paul Ryan Holds Himself Up As A Broker

It’s a measure of how gullible the Beltway media are that when Rep. Paul Ryan held himself up as the guy to broker a GOP deal on the debt ceiling and government shutdown with President Obama last week, he was greeted as a potential savior. Nobody seemed to notice that he was trying to push much of his discredited Ryan budget on Democrats in exchange for Republicans simply doing their job: opening up government and avoiding a debt default.

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has belatedly begun reminding people, those are not concessions. Republicans say they want both things, and they should: their poll numbers are in the toilet and constituents are furious because of the government shutdown, and a debt ceiling would crater the economy.

But Ryan pushed anyway, as though he had a chance to force his terms on Obama and recalcitrant Democrats. That’s almost as delusional as former Vice President Dick Cheney saying we would be “greeted as liberators” in Iraq. But let’s give Cheney credit for one thing: He was elected vice president, twice. Ryan failed at that task a year ago and cannot be considered a serious candidate for national office.

The National Review’s Robert Costa, who is doing some of the best reporting on the House GOP, took issue with my calling Ryan “delusional” on MSNBC’s “Up with Steve Kornacki” Sunday morning. “I don’t think the word is delusional, because there was a moment last week when Ryan published that Wall Street Journal op-ed, the House was really leading the talks, and Ryan was engaging directly with the president. For a brief moment it seemed like Ryan could be the one to get his right flank to come along….Once Harry Reid really stepped into the fray, Paul Ryan’s whole influence over the process kind of evaporated.”

OK, but isn’t it a little bit delusional to believe Reid would stay out of the fray? Now comes news that Ryan has done a 180 and declared that House Republicans must fight whatever the Senate comes up with, even a compromise floated by GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine that Reid has already rejected for giving up too much. While the Collins proposal would open the government for six months and lift the debt ceiling enough to get to January, it delays the medical device tax two years and sets other conditions on the Affordable Care Act.  Reid insists the Senate won’t negotiate about the ACA or anything else under debt-ceiling/shutdown duress.

Ryan, who was savaged by some on the right last week for seeming to trade the goal of repealing Obamacare in exchange for Obama embracing most of the infamous Ryan budget, is now back to Obamacare. In fact, he’s insisting the House GOP shouldn’t back any deal that opens the government or extends the debt ceiling deadline without major changes to the Affordable Care Act, including letting employers withhold birth-control coverage from insurance plans for religious reasons.

Get it? They’re back to their crusade against birth control access. If that doesn’t define delusional, I’m not sure what does.

To be fair to Ryan, he dropped his politically toxic plan to voucherize Medicare in his latest proposal and mostly stuck to Medicare trimming that Obama himself had endorsed in the last round of grand bargain negotiating in 2011. While I think the president was willing to go too far to cut a deal – and may have been saved from himself by Republican insanity – it must be noted he was offering those cuts in exchange for major revenue increases. He was not offering them in exchange for the House and Senate GOP coming to its senses and doing its job, instead of holding the country hostage to pass legislative changes they can’t win enough political power to enact through legislation.

So yes, Ryan was always delusional – but now he’s even more so. The individual mandate will not be delayed, and the contraceptive provisions of the ACA will not be made optional. What’s dangerous is that Beltway reporters are so hungry for signs of GOP sanity that they hold up Ryan as reasonable, which feeds his own delusion that he’s politically crucial.

Now Ryan is really, really angry at Senate Republicans, according to NRO’s Jonathan Strong, and he’s going to take his ball and go home. “They’re trying to cut the House out, and trying to jam us with the Senate. We’re not going to roll over and take that,” Ryan told reporters on Saturday.

The only way this ends is the only way it ever was going to end: with House Speaker John Boehner, having let extremist GOP babies cry themselves out, finally passing a deal with the support of Democrats. And he shouldn’t count on them being the Democrats who approved the debt-ceiling “deal” that ultimately imposed sequester cuts, or the fiscal-cliff deal that compromised on tax rates and kicked those cuts down the road. On both the Senate and House side – where Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi openly frets that Democrats have “been enablers” of the “irresponsible” GOP – there’s a new tone of toughness. Let’s hope it holds.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon.com, October 13, 2013

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down, Ryan Budget Plan | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Total Howler”: Paul Ryan’s Budget, His Own Facts And Obamacare

Hello, I am back. We will discuss aspects of my vacation in due course, but first, our friend Mr. Ryan.

He’s facing lots of derision for assuming the repeal of Obamacare in his new budget. First of all, credit where it’s due–it was apparently Chris Wallace of Fox News who brought this information to light in questioning Ryan, so good for him.

And second of all, yes, this is a total howler. Repeal of Obamacare? Not going to happen. Could theoretically happen in 2017, one supposes, but by that time, even if there is a Republican president and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, including the super-majority of 60 in the Senate that would presumably be needed to enact full repeal, states will be getting billions in federal funding to put working poor people on the rolls of their new exchanges. It seems pretty unlikely that broad support for undoing that would exist.

So Ryan’s assumption doesn’t pass any known laugh test. So why does he do it? Well, because of the old saying “that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.” Which is to say…

The Republicans have spent the years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act insisting that it’s a deficit-buster. You heard Mitt Romney say this a thousand times. It wasn’t true, and it isn’t true. In June 2012, Politifact gave Romney a flat-out “false” when he made the claim, writing:

…for claims about deficits, we consider the Congressional Budget Office, often called the CBO, to be the standard by which we fact-check claims.

The CBO said this about the health care law back in 2010: It lowers the deficit, by about $124 billion over 10 years.

And in 2011, when Republicans offered a bill to repeal the health care law, the CBO said that increased the deficit, by about $210 billion over 10 years.

Now, is the CBO infallible? Certainly not. And good questions have been raised about some of the CBO’s methods in accounting for the health care law’s effects. We reported on some of those concerns in great detail in a fact-check of statements from U.S. Rep Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. He said the law was “accelerating our country toward bankruptcy.” We rated that Mostly False.

So Ryan has been telling this lie for a while, as have all Republicans. The month after this Politifact assessment, the CBO issued a second report running some new numbers and finding the same result. And this year, The New York Times reported in mid-February that the deficit was decreasing (and it is, and rapidly; see Krugman today on this) largely because of lower health-care costs, by no means all but some of which could be traced to the ACA.

In other words, in reality land, Obamacare contributes to deficit reduction. By how much, we certainly don’t yet know. But all the signs we have–the experts’ projections and the early evidence–suggest that this is the case.

But in Republican land, it’s an article of faith that the ACA increases the deficit. This being the case, or “the case” as it were, then how in the world could Ryan introduce a new budget to eliminate the deficit in 10 years (the full thing is being unveiled Wednesday) that includes Obamacare? He’d be destroyed by the agitprop machine of the right if his budget did that, both because they just detest the thing and because it “increases” the deficit. They’ve agreed on this! Anyone who says otherwise is guilty of apostasy.

So again, this is our “new” GOP. Making up realities according to how the howling half of the base would respond. That sounds kind of like the old GOP to me.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 11, 2013

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Ryan Budget Plan | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ryan’s Blurred Vision”: What The New Republican Budget Reveals And Conceals

Someone needs to tell Paul Ryan that his party – and the economic platform of austerity and plutocracy he crafted for it – lost a national election last year. Someone also needs to tell the Wisconsin Republican that he still chairs the House Budget Committee mainly thanks to gerrymandered redistricting.

Someone clearly needs to remind him of those realities because the “vision document” he proposed on Tuesday as the Republican federal budget is only a still more extreme version of the same notions (and the same evasions) that he and Mitt Romney tried to sell without success last fall.

Voters decisively rejected that version of Ryan’s “path to prosperity,” with its gutting of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, its additional tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and its destructive cutbacks in education, infrastructure, scientific research, national security, and a hundred other essential elements of modern American life – and a decent future – that require effective government.

Indeed, the astonishing initial assessment of the new Republican budget by experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is that Ryan wants even deeper cuts and even more lavish tax cuts than he and Romney touted in 2012. The CBPP estimates that the new Ryan plan would cut $800 billion over the coming decade from an assortment of vital programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP, or food stamps); Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that supports the elderly poor; Pell grants for higher education; and federal school lunches, among others, along with the Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and Child Tax Credits that have historically improved standards of living for millions of impoverished working families.

Ryan pretends to admire Ronald Reagan, but the late president — who proudly extended and expanded the EITC — was far too liberal for the likes of him and Romney. Unlike the sunny Gipper, these sulking millionaires resent the working poor – the “47 percent” – who aren’t paying high enough taxes.

But everyone ought to know Ryan well enough by now to anticipate these cruel proposals. They ought to know, too, that Ryan would allow the entire edifice handed down to us by previous generations – highways, bridges, airports, canals, reservoirs, schools, parks, and much more – to crumble into oblivion, rather than increase taxes on the Republican donors whose wealth has multiplied so astronomically in recent years. His voice is the high-pitched drone of a generation of termites, voraciously consuming the nation’s foundations.

What everyone may not know is that Ryan’s vision of the future is quite blurry, since he again refuses to specify exactly how his budget allegedly achieves balance. It says (again) that the severest cuts will be made in domestic non-discretionary spending, but never details how much will be cut from which programs or even categories. It says (again) that tax expenditures will be reduced to balance those tax cuts for the rich, but never details those either. It says (again) that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed, although there is no chance of that happening now. And it says that defense spending – including untold billions in well-known waste – will simply be restored to pre-sequestration levels, while everything else will be cut again, starting at the post-sequestration baseline, much as Romney promised last year.

It says the federal budget will achieve balance within 10 years, but (again) there is no reason to believe its unfounded promises.

This old “new” budget demonstrates that no change is taking hold among the Republicans, except that they seem even more rigid in their ideological obsessions. No basis exists for bipartisan negotiation toward a budget compromise.

Without a massive public reaction to the Ryan proposals, the likelihood is that sequestration will continue and the Republicans will again seek to hold government hostage, as they have done repeatedly since 2009. And the nation will continue to suffer until voters finally decide, in their wisdom, to curtail the power of this truculent and implacable faction.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, March 13, 2013

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Ryan Budget Plan | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ryan The Redistributionist”: More Income And Wealth For The Already Well Off

“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

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Ryan Budget Plan | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From Tragedy To Farce”: Paul Ryan’s Obamacare “Repeal” Fails The Laugh Test And The Cry Test

Paul Ryan releases his budget plan today and the rollout and coverage of the document and its author represent a test for both Ryan and the media. I’m speaking specifically of its provisions regarding repealing Obamacare—or more precisely “repealing” Obamacare.

The test for Ryan is the extent to which his reputation as a straight-shooting budget wonk survived the ill-fated Romney campaign. Longtime Ryan observers know that that standing was more contrivance than reality (he cast a string of budget-busting votes during the Bush years before finding his inner fiscal warrior when a Democrat was in the White House, and his budgets have been less intellectually honest than advertised), but its durability showed it to be impervious to reality.

So the question now is whether that disconnect will endure? Because even before it’s fully unveiled Ryan’s budget fails both the laugh test and the cry test—both, as I said, regarding its treatment of the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as Obamacare.

The laugh test regards the fundamental premise that Ryan’s budget anticipates the law’s repeal. Agree or disagree with the idea of repealing the law, you have to admit that it’s about as likely as Mitt Romney signing any bills into law any time soon.

National Journal‘s Jill Lawrence wrote an article yesterday looking at the political logistics of repeal, and they’re daunting, to put it mildly.

For the health-care law to be repealed before 2017, you’d have to believe that either Obama would, lamb-like, accept repeal of his signature domestic accomplishment, or that Republicans in 2014 would somehow win veto-proof two-thirds majorities in the House (290 votes if all 435 representatives are present, 58 more seats than the GOP held as of mid-March) and the Senate (67 votes, which would require a net gain of 22 seats).

For repeal to be feasible in 2017, a Republican would have to win the White House in 2016; Republicans would need to hold their House majority, and Republicans would need a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate (15 more than they have now).

That latter scenario, Lawrence notes, also doesn’t take into account the day to day reality of the law in 2017—the practical problems of unwinding a system that will have become entrenched as people use it to get health coverage and so forth.

“The continuing assumption that Obamacare will be repealed, even with Obama reinstalled in the White House, is just one more factor that makes Ryan’s budget more wishful than credible,” Lawrence concludes. That’s putting it politely. The fact is that if we’re to take Ryan and his budget seriously, it should be grounded in reality, not in the wishful thinking of the right wing.

But Ryan’s Obamacare repeal also fails the cry test for being so intellectually dishonest as to make a noncynical citizen weep. You see Ryan’s repeal of Obamacare isn’t actually a full repeal of Obamacare. As the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein points out, “Ryan’s version of repeal means getting rid of all the parts that spend money to give people health insurance but keeping the tax increases and the Medicare cuts that pays for that health insurance.” So the $716 billion which Obamacare cut from Medicare and which Ryan and running mate Mitt Romney campaigned so hard against last year? Those cuts are in Ryan’s budget … just like they were in his previous budgets. He was, as TPM’s Sahil Kapur points out, against those cuts before he was for them before he was against them before he was for them. Or something.

As the Washington Post‘s Jonathan Bernstein notes, “This is no garden-variety flip-flop. It’s a fundamental decision to govern one way and campaign the exact opposite way.” It’s breathtaking, really.

And the governance/campaigning dichotomy is the more striking for the results of the campaign. You would think that after losing a race that the GOP insisted was a grand philosophical showdown, Republicans would attempt some sort of course correction other than reverting to their we say we hate it, but we’re happy to use it stance on Medicare cuts. Voters disapprove of both the party and its policies, and Ryan’s response is more of the same. To paraphrase his least favorite philosopher, his budgets seem to repeat themselves, first as tragedy, then as farce.

The question remains whether Ryan will be called on it in news reporting or whether he will reclaim his reputation as honest-green-eye-shade guy. Stay tuned.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, March 12, 2013

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Ryan Budget Plan | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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