Republicans Can't Hide Their Ryan Eyes
This week, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced they would deploy Rep. Paul Ryan to give the Republican rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union address. But while Boehner is now touting Ryan as "uniquely qualified to address the state of our economy and the fiscal challenges that face our country," the GOP leadership remains largely silent regarding Ryan's calls for the privatization of Social Security and the rationing of Medicare. And as it turns out, the Republican contradictions and deceptions Americans will see on display Tuesday night hardly end there.
During the 2010 midterm elections, John Boehner's "GOP Pledge to America" took those two popular programs off the table when it came to his now broken $100 billion budget cut promise. The much-hyped Republican Study Committee plan to slash $2.5 trillion in discretionary spending for Democratic priorities similarly includes what Boehner's Pledge deemed "common-sense exceptions for seniors." And throughout the fall campaign, the same Republican Party that tried to kill Medicare in the 1960's and gut it in the 1990's falsely accused Democrats wanting to cut benefits to 46 million American elderly.
Which is why Paul Ryan's Roadmap for America makes the Republican leadership queasy. Because while most no doubt agree in principle with Ryan's "slash and privatize" agenda, they are terrified of saying so on the record.
In February, House Minority Leader John Boehner distanced himself from Ryan's Roadmap, saying, "it's his." In July, Boehner grumbled, "There are parts of it that are well done," adding, "Other parts I have some doubts about, in terms of how good the policy is." And with good reason. 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 about as popular as the Ebola virus. As the Washington Post put it:
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.
For his part, Ryan has acknowledged the GOP's 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." As for his scheme to convert Medicare into a fixed-contribution voucher system (one which the Washington Post's Ezra Klein explained, "this is rationing, and that's not a slur"), Ryan acknowledged last year:
"Rationing happens today! The question is who will do it? The government? Or you, your doctor and your family?"
(Of course, Ryan left out the real culprit - the private insurance market. But with 50 million uninsured, another 25 million underinsured, one in five American postponing needed care and medical costs driving over 60% of personal bankruptcies, Congressman Ryan is surely right that "rationing happens today.")
But that's just the beginning of the problems - and hypocrisy - Paul Ryan presents for Republican mythmakers. As Paul Krugman among others documented, Ryan's Roadmap not only is a dismal failure when it comes to balancing the budget, but would constitute yet another tax cut windfall for the richest Americans who need it least. As Krugman described "flim-flam man" Ryan's sleight of hand:
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has, however, stepped into the breach. Its numbers indicate that the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion...
The Roadmap wouldn't reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich.
And I do mean slash. The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan's total tax cuts. That's not a misprint. Even as it slashed taxes at the top, the plan would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population.
The GOP intends to offer a resolution giving the budget chairman sole responsibility for developing a plan to cut nondefense spending at least to 2008 levels for the rest of fiscal 2011.
Democrats argue that would give one lawmaker--Ryan--nearly unilateral authority over the country's immediate spending decisions.
Speaking on the House floor on Thursday, Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the implication "is that Mr. Ryan unilaterally can set a number which has not been agreed to by the House, but under the power granted in this resolution would bind the House to a number to which it never agreed."
"I am not for giving any one person in this body the authority to unilaterally set the number at which we will fund America's government for the next seven months," he declared.
Even Ryan's closest political allies fear of the blowback from his ideas. Last year, GOP representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) published Young Guns. But even Ryan's co-authors are afraid to back his draconian Roadmap. As ThinkProgress reported, Cantor repeatedly refused to endorse Ryan's Roadmap. This week, he could only muster, "I'm hopeful that we can get elements of what Paul is aiming for incorporated." As his other co-author, in September Kevin McCarthy lied about what was in Ryan's plan - and their book:
"No one has a proposal up to cut Social Security. It's about protecting it."
Sorry Republicans, but you can't hide your Ryan eyes.