The Paul Ryan budget should not be treated as a one-day story. The ideas in it represent the clearest expression of the GOP’s blueprint for the country’s fiscal and economic future you could possibly want.
News is trickling out right now that Obama’s meeting with House Republicans today didn’t satisfy them. But if you want to understand why it’s crazy to expect any “charm offensive” to work, look no further than the Ryan budget. No amount of schmoozing can bridge the divide between Obama and anyone who seriously subscribes to the views it embodies.
I strongly urge you to read and absorb the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ stunning analysis of the document. The key takeaway from the CBPP analysis is that the Ryan budget would take government subsidized health coverage away from tens of millions of people, and dramatically roll back a big range of programs that millions of poor and middle class Americans rely upon, even as it hands the rich even bigger tax rate cuts than the ones Mitt Romney proposed in the 2012 campaign. This, after decisively losing that campaign.
The analysis is startling, illustrating in new ways the draconian nature of this budget and the amount of budgetary hocus pocus in it. Some key points:
* CBPP calculates that the Ryan plan’s combination of repealing much of Obamacare and block-granting Medicaid to states would mean tens of millions more poor or moderate income Americans would be uninsured.
* CBPP calculates that the Ryan plan cuts some $800 billion from mandatory non-defense programs (not including Social Security, health care programs, civil service pensions, and farm programs). The way that enormous cut would be targeted is not specified, but it would be hitting a category of spending in which 70 percent goes for programs for the poor, including Pell Grants, food stamps, disability insurance, etc.
* CBPP calculates that the Ryan plan cuts non defense spending by more than $1 trillion below the level of the non-sequestered spending caps agreed upon by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which itself cut spending by $1 trillion. These would likely hit areas like education, infrastructure, and scientific research.
* Despite all these savage cuts to the safety net and other federal programs, CBPP calcuates that the Ryan budget would cut tax rates on top earners — the wealthiest — by more than twice as much as Romney proposed, without identifying how this would be paid for. (This is because CBPP uses higher tax rates resulting from the fiscal cliff deal as the baseline).
One thing CBPP is currently trying to calculate is what overall percentage of the Ryan budget’s total of more than $4 trillion in spending cuts directly impacts programs relied upon by poor Americans. So stay tuned for that.
The Ryan budget is full of promises to “strengthen” the safety net, which it purportedly does with a premium support scheme for Medicare and transferring control of Medicaid to states. Those would transfer health care costs to beneficiaries and states, leading to benefit cuts and fewer insured. But whether or not these ideas would actually “strengthen” these programs, articulating that as the plan’s stated goal doesn’t disguise the basic fact that Republicans want to dramatically reduce the amount of money we’re spending on expanding health coverage to the poor and elderly. If you want a safety net, you need to pay for it. Republicans would prefer to roll it back — even as they deeply cut taxes on the rich. All of this slashing of government would take place amid a fragile recovery — which is justified by grotesquely hyping the immediate threat posed by long term debt.
The most charitable reading of this blueprint is that its authors actually believe all of this is good policy. And indeed, it reflects a set of views many Republicans have long espoused in various forms: Rolling back government programs poor people rely on is good for them, unshackling the “takers” from dependence and freeing them to exercise the economic liberty that will enable them to prosper. Government throws a wet blanket on individual initiative and is more likely to discourage, rather than enable, social mobility. Asking a little more from the “makers” and “job creators” to expand protections for the poor and elderly and invest in education and infrastructure will create economic stagnation, while reducing their tax rates will unleash explosive growth.
The election was just fought around all these ideas, and the American people rejected them decisively. Yet many Republicans remain fully in thrall to them. No amount of candy or flowers can win these folks over.