August 18, 2012

Paul Ryan, in a nutshell

1) Paul Ryan would cut taxes on the rich.

He has proposed lowering the top tax rate to 25 percent, which means that the top one percent of income-earners would pay nearly $156,000 less in taxes each year. He has also proposed completely scrapping the capital gains tax, which means that many millionaires and billionaires (people like Mitt Romney) would be paying almost nothing in taxes.[1]

2) Paul Ryan would raise taxes on the poor. 

Under Ryan’s plan, those making less than $30,000 a year would pay slightly more in taxes each year. That’s not because their rates would go up but because “the Ryan budget would get rid of tax breaks that benefit low-income Americans, including expansions of ‘the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and American Opportunity Tax Credit that were enacted in 2009,’ according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”[2]

3) Paul Ryan would slash social programs that benefit the poor.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that at least 62 percent of Ryan’s proposed $5.3 trillion cuts would come from programs that benefit the poor. That includes $2.4 trillion in Medicaid cuts, $134 billion in food stamp cuts, $463 billion in cuts to other mandatory programs that benefit the poor, and $291 billion in discretionary programs benefit the poor. These latter cuts would include Pell Grants and job-training programs.[3]

The New York Times emphasizes how devastating these cuts would be. The food stamp cuts alone would, for a family of four, “mean a loss of $90 worth of food a month.” Most people who receive food stamps “use them up in the first two weeks of a month, and many turn to food banks by month’s end. Cutting benefits so sharply would lead to a significant increase in hunger, particularly among children, which would quickly create dangerous ripples through the health and education systems.”[4]

Ryan’s austerity cuts are so severe that, if implemented, “by 2050, most of the federal government aside from Social Security, health care, and defense would literally cease to exist, according to figures in a Congressional Budget Office report.”[5]

4) Paul Ryan's plan would drive up healthcare costs and force many to lose their insurance.

The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that under Ryan’s proposed budget “most elderly people would pay more for their health care than they would pay under the current Medicare system.”[6] Ryan’s Medicaid cuts would force states “to drop coverage for an estimated 14 million to 28 million people.” Further, “[b]y eliminating the expansion of Medicaid in the health care law, cutting $1.6 trillion, it would leave another 17 million low- and moderate-income people uninsured.”[7]

5) Paul Ryan would increase military spending.

Although Ryan has billed himself as a fiscal conservative and although the US currently spends nearly as much on defense as the entire rest of the world combined, Ryan has called for spending an additional $200 billion on defense over the next decade.[8]

6) Paul Ryan hasn’t made it clear how he would balance the budget.

Ryan’s drastic spending cuts would be offset by the massive tax cuts he would give the rich. Therefore, although he claims that his budget plan would eliminate deficits, as Paul Krugman points out, “the alleged deficit reduction depends on the completely unsupported assertion that trillions of dollars in revenue can be found by closing tax loopholes.” Krugman continues:

And we’re talking about a lot of loophole-closing. As Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center points out, to make his numbers work Mr. Ryan would, by 2022, have to close enough loopholes to yield an extra $700 billion in revenue every year. That’s a lot of money, even in an economy as big as ours. So which specific loopholes has Mr. Ryan, who issued a 98-page manifesto on behalf of his budget, said he would close? 

 None. Not one.

7) Paul Ryan supports US military adventurism.

As Daniel Larison writes, Ryan “has shown no inclination to dissent from his party on foreign policy issues at any time.” This means, not only supporting our many wars, but also rejecting diplomacy:

While he envisions continued increases in Pentagon spending, his budget proposals have included significant cuts to the much smaller appropriations for the State Department and foreign aid. According to Ryan's 2012 plan, diplomacy and development spending would be reduced sharply: From $47.8 billion in fiscal 2012 to $43.1 billion in fiscal 2013, $40.1 billion in fiscal 2014, $38.3 billion in fiscal 2015, and $38.1 billion in fiscal 2016. This lines up with his apparent distaste for diplomacy and his tendency to view diplomatic engagement with authoritarian states as inherently undesirable…
In late 2009, he jumped on the opportunity to attack the burgeoning — and modestly successful — improvement in relations with Russia as “appeasement,” which suggests that Ryan sees no benefit in more constructive relations with other major powers.[10]

8) Paul Ryan is largely responsible for our current national debt.

Glenn Greenwald points out that Ryan voted for “virtually every program that has piled up debt over the past decade, including the Iraq War (not just its commencement but its limitless continuation), the Wall Street bailout, Medicare Part D, Endless War in Afghanistan, and—in the midst of all of that—Bush tax cuts.”[11]

9) Paul Ryan has long opposed civil liberties.  

Again from Greenwald:

Perhaps most ludicrous of all is the notion that he’s some sort of advocate for restrained federal government power. As’s John Glaser documented today, Ryan has continuously voted in favor of measures to expand all sorts of intrusive federal power, including making the PATRIOT Act permanent, enacting the Military Commissions Act to provide indefinite detention with no habeas corpus rights, implementing the Protect America Act to massively expand the U.S. Government’s power to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants, supporting a federal Constitutional amendment to deny same-sex couples the right to marry along with a law banning the ability of gay couples in D.C. to adopt children and the continuation of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, a Constitutional amendment to criminalize flag burning, and almost every proposed measure to restrict abortion rights.

The ACLU — which has been continuously scathing in its criticisms of President Obama’s civil liberties record — issued a report on the potential Vice Presidential nominees (including Joe Biden) entitled “A Heartbeat Away from the Presidency, Light Years from Civil Liberties,” and said yesterday that Ryan has “uniformly harmful views on five key civil liberties issues including a humane immigration policy, LGBT equality, reproductive rights, torture and indefinite detention and fair voting access” (he did, however, vote against the NDAA’s indefinite detention provisions, signed into law by President Obama at the end of 2011, as well as for a bill to include “sexual orientation” in the list of factors that cannot be legally used in job hiring). Whatever one wants to say about Ryan’s record, it is the very opposite of constraining the power of the federal government to intrude into the lives of individuals; indeed, it’s a testament to massive expansion of intrusive federal government power in almost every realm.[12]

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[1] Suzy Khimm, “Ryan wants to give the wealthy even bigger tax cuts than Romney does,” Washington Post, August 11, 2012.

[2] Ibid. See also Richard Rubin, “Paul Ryan’s tax vision further-reaching than Romney’s,” Washington Post, August 13, 2012.

[3] Kelsey Merrick and Jim Horney, “Chairman Ryan Gets 62 Percent of His Huge Base Cuts from Programs for Lower-Income Americans,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 23, 2012.

[4] Editorial, “A Cruel Budget,” New York Times, March 29, 2012.

[6] Ezra Klein, “CBO looks at RyanCare,” Washington Post, April 5, 2011.

[7] Editorial, “A Cruel Budget,” New York Times, March 29, 2012.

[8] Kelsey Merrick and Jim Horney, “Chairman Ryan Gets 62 Percent of His Huge Base Cuts from Programs for Lower-Income Americans,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 23, 2012. See also Fred Kaplan, “What Does Paul Ryan Know About Foreign Policy?” Slate, August 14, 2012.

[9] Paul Krugman, “Pink Slime Economics,” New York Times, April 1, 2012. See also Robert Reich, “Ryan’s budget doesn’t add up,” Salon, August 17, 2012.

[11] Glenn Greenwald, “The Right’s Brittle Heroes,” Salon, August 12, 2012.

[12] Ibid.

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