Paul Ryan’s budget just another cruel trickle-down hoax
Last week, Wisconsin’s latest GOP golden boy, Paul Ryan, palled around with presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney as the latter prepared to once and for all bury the bleached bones of Rick Santorum, the lunatic zombie who wouldn’t die.
As The Washington Post reported, the chemistry between the two on the campaign trail has prompted speculation that Ryan could be a natural VP pick, softening Romney’s negatives while Doppler-shifting a reliably purple state into more reddish hues.
Indeed, Wisconsin hasn’t seen this much jowly, gimlet-eyed wholesomeness since Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Braun’s latest man-crush-apalooza.
Of course, Ryan is a conservative hero these days because he released a budget that includes the only two things that excite conservatives more than finding fresh dirt on a shooting victim who may or may not have tried to fend off an armed stalker with a bag of Skittles: More tax cuts for the wealthy and less help for everyone else. (Incidentally, I’m still waiting for the first right-wing blogger to breathlessly speculate that Trayvon Martin may have actually been carrying a potentially deadly 54-ounce bag of Skittles and not the standard 3.6-ounce bag, as the liberal mainstream media dishonestly insists on reporting. Give it another week.)
But give Ryan credit for one thing: He at least tries to raise the specter of out-of-control deficits. However, it’s one thing to be a Cassandra who warns the king about impending doom; it’s another to use that dire warning as an excuse to help the aristocracy feather their own nests.
Of course, you’d think if you were honestly trying to balance the budget, you’d take a serious look at what our country did the last time the budget was actually balanced. That would be the late ’90s and early 2000s, following the modest upper-class tax increases that were pushed through by Bill Clinton over the plaintive squeals of congressional Republicans, who guaranteed that said tax increases would destroy the economy and balloon the deficit.
Newt Gingrich, who briefly caught fire during the presidential primary season before his skin sloughed off and reminded everyone that he frightens small animals and children, was absolutely certain that Clinton’s tax increases on wealthy Americans would spell doom for our country:
“The tax increase will kill jobs and lead to a recession, and the recession will force people off of work and onto unemployment and will actually increase the deficit,” he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution in the summer of 1993.
To put the Ryan budget in perspective, then, I’d like to share two analyses from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. The first shows that 62% of the cuts in the budget come from programs for low-income Americans, while 37% of the tax benefits go to Americans making more than $1 million a year. That’s hardly compassionate conservatism.
Wrote The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein: “[I]n Ryan’s budget, Social Security is untouched. The cuts to Medicaid and other health programs for the poor are twice the size of those to Medicare. The cuts to education, to food stamps, to transportation infrastructure and to pretty much everything else besides defense are draconian. As for the tax reform component, it cuts taxes on millionaires by more than $250,000, but it doesn’t name a single loophole or tax break that Ryan and the Republicans would close.”
The other analysis involves the deficit itself and where it came from. Much has been made of that crazy spendthrift Obama and the unprecedented debts he’s running up, but the truth is a bit less damning.
Obama didn’t simply inherit a terrible economy that demanded a classic Keynesian response (thus the $874 billion stimulus bill), he also inherited two expensive wars and other policies that increased the deficit. Among these were the Bush tax cuts, the prescription drug bill, TARP, and defense spending unrelated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The CBPP weighed everything and concluded that Bush’s policies contributed $5.1 trillion to the debt from 2001-09, while it projected that Obama’s policies will contribute $983 billion from 2009-17. (Go here for a more thorough analysis.) In addition, the Great Recession, which had a major impact on tax receipts, was a hole that Obama did not create but nevertheless was forced to dig out of. And despite what Mitt Romney would like you to believe, the economy is better now than it was when Obama took over. Much better. It’s just not great yet.
Of course, there are a lot of different ways of interpreting these numbers, but here’s the analogy I like to use:
The Republicans, led by George W. Bush, shoot the economy in the face. Obama swoops in, performs emergency surgery at great expense, and after a grueling recovery period, starts to see some improvement. Finally, the Republicans, this time led by Paul Ryan, harangue Obama about the pace of recovery of the patient they shot, use it as an excuse to check him out of intensive care and, when no one is looking, harvest his organs and overnight them on a military helicopter to Dick Cheney’s fortress of solitude in the Himalayas.
For those who think George W. Bush is old news and that Democrats and the rest of the country should just move on already, well, that’s not so easy to do with his boot still lodged in our backsides. That Republicans would use the current state of the economy as an excuse to call for still more callous trickle-down voodoo is nothing less than an outrage.
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