Elections Won, GOP Finally Embraces Ryan Roadmap
If nothing else, the House Republicans' 2012 budget proposal being rolled out this week by Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan offers a never-ending series of ironies. Now touting $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next ten years, Ryan as a member of the Simpson-Bowles commission voted against the panel's plan shooting for the same target. Having opposed Obama commission's recommendations which included some tax increases, the Ryan proposal is said to call for trimming the top tax rate to 25% while effectively raising taxes for 90% of Americans.
But the saddest irony is this: after running away in terror from Paul Ryan's schemes to privatize Social Security and ration Medicare during the run-up to November's midterm elections, the new Republican majority only now is publicly embracing what it privately supported all along.
A quick glance at the previews in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal would suggest that the Ryan's proposal is in keeping with the Republican tax-cutting, privatization agenda. After all, the "fundamental overhaul of the tax system" supposedly calls for lowering the top individual and corporate rates to 25%, delivering yet another Treasury-draining payday for the wealthy. Medicaid, the program providing health insurance for millions of poor and disabled Americans, would be gutted by $1 trillion over the next decade, with the remain dollars sent to the states as block grants. And Ryan's scheme would represent the end of Medicare as we know it, with future beneficiaries instead receiving vouchers to purchase insurance in the private market, inevitably leading to rationing as those vouchers failed to keep up with rising premiums.
All of which is why the party which last fall won a Congressional majority by scaring the bejesus of out of elderly voters ran as far away as possible from Ryan's Roadmap for America before the actual voting took place.
In February 2010, then House Minority Leader John Boehner began distancing himself from Ryan's Roadmap, saying, "it's his." As the New York Times reported in July:
Representative John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, the minority leader, has praised Mr. Ryan but said the Roadmap would not be a part of the Republican agenda this fall.
"There are parts of it that are well done," Mr. Boehner told reporters last month. "Other parts I have some doubts about, in terms of how good the policy is."
In fact, only 13 House Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors, and Republican leaders, hoping for gains in the fall and, ultimately, in 2012, seem concerned at the possibility that the Roadmap may eventually become something candidates will be forced to take a position on. After all, what candidate wants to talk about major changes to Medicare and Social Security?
Which was exactly right. With its draconian spending cuts, Medicare rationing, tax cuts for the rich and Social Security privatization, a GOP platform based on Ryan's Roadmap would have been about as popular as the Ebola virus. As the Washington Post put it last summer:
Many Republican colleagues, who, even as they praise Ryan for his doggedness, privately consider the Roadmap a path to electoral disaster...
The discomfort some Republicans feel for Ryan's proposals goes beyond November. If Republicans were to take control of Congress next year, Ryan will rise to chairman of the Budget Committee. He could use the position to hold colleagues accountable for runaway budget deficits and make it more difficult for fellow Republicans -- and Democrats -- to stuff bills with expensive projects that add to the problem.
Even Ryan's closest political allies feared the blowback from his ideas. Last year, GOP representatives Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) joined in Ryan in publishing Young Guns. But even Ryan's co-authors were afraid to back his draconian plans. As ThinkProgress reported last August, Cantor repeatedly refused to endorse Ryan's Roadmap. As late as January, he could only muster, "I'm hopeful that we can get elements of what Paul is aiming for incorporated." (As for his other co-author, in September McCarthy lied about what was in Ryan's plan - and their book, pretending No one has a proposal up to cut Social Security. It's about protecting it.")
For his part, Ryan in August acknowledged the GOP's past allergic reaction to his Roadmap. "While I am proud to have 13 House Republicans co-sponsor the legislation, and have been overwhelmed by the support outside the Beltway," he claimed, "my plan is not the Republican Party's platform and was never intended to be."
Of course, Paul Ryan's Roadmap for America was always intended to be the Republican Party's platform. Just not until after Election Day.