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Ryan’s Radical Vision: Who Is the Republican Responder to the State of the Union?

Ryan’s Radical Vision: Who Is the Republican Responder to the State of the Union?

Republicans announced last Friday that Rep. Paul Ryan (WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, will deliver the GOP’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union address tomorrow. According to reports, GOP leaders chose Ryan because he is supposedly a “champion of slashing government spending.” The seven-term Wisconsin congressman gives Republicans a “chance to emphasize their core message: government spending must come down to reduce the nation’s annual deficit and long-term debt.”  House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Ryan — who has been given “stunning and unprecedented” power to shape the budget — is “uniquely qualified to address the state of our economy and the fiscal challenges that face our country.” Ryan is known as the GOP’s numbers guy in the House, and he laid out last year what he calls a “Roadmap” to fiscal health. But as the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein notes, “The more they elevate Ryan, the more they elevate Ryan’s Roadmap. And that document is a timebomb for them.”

PRIVATIZING ENTITLEMENTS

Ryan’s Roadmap puts Americans on the path of privatizing entitlement programs, such as Social Security. The plan boasts about “the creation of personal investment accounts for future retirees” that are “the property of the individual.” (Emphasis in the original document). “Individuals will be able to join the investor class for the first time,” the Roadmap says. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) notes that “the Ryan plan proposes large cuts in Social Security benefits — roughly 16 percent for the average new retiree in 2050 and 28 percent in 2080 from price indexing alone.” It “initially diverts most of these savings to help fund private accounts rather than to restore Social Security solvency.” CBPP also notes that the Roadmap “would eliminate traditional Medicare, most of Medicaid, and all of the Children’s Health Insurance Program” by creating a private voucher system that won’t keep up with the cost of health care. 

By 2080, under Ryan’s plan, the Medicare program would be reduced by nearly 80 percent below its projected size under current policies. CBPP summed up Ryan’s plan: The Roadmap’s cuts “would be so severe that CBO estimates they would shrink total federal expenditures (other than on interest payments) from roughly 19 percent of GDP in recent years to just 13.8 percent of GDP by 2080. Federal spending has not equaled such a low level of GDP since 1950, when Medicare and Medicaid did not yet exist, Social Security failed to cover many workers, and close to half of the elderly people in the United States lived below the poverty line.”

MIDDLE CLASS TAX INCREASES

Citizens for Tax Justice found that Ryan’s Roadmap would raise taxes on 90 percent of taxpayers and drastically lower them for the richest Americans. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) recently reported that the rates for the middle class would be higher than those for the rich under Ryan’s plan. “Middle-class families earning between $50,000 and $75,000 a year would see their average tax rate jump to 19.1% (from 17.7%) under this plan — an increase of $900 on average,” EPI says, while at the same time, “Millionaires would see their average tax rate drop to 12.8%, less than half of what they would pay relative to current policy.” As EPI’s Andrew Fieldhouse concluded, under the Roadmap, “a long tradition of progressive taxation would be abandoned; millionaires and Wall Street bankers would pay significantly lower tax rates than middle-class workers. … Income inequality would soar.” 

In another giveaway to the rich, the Roadmap calls for a total repeal of the estate and corporate taxes and would introduce a national sales tax. Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) said this idea “would eat up a much larger percentage of total income for poor and middle-class families than wealthy families” because the former “spend most or all of their income on consumption,” while “high-income families are able to save much more of their income.” Ryan’s plan claims federal tax revenue will be 19 percent of GDP, but the Tax Policy Center found last year that his proposal would only bring in “approximately 16 percent of GDP, which amounts to a $4 trillion revenue shortfall over ten years.”

LESS REVENUE, MORE DEBT

Despite raising taxes on 90 percent of Americans, the federal government will lose $2 trillion in revenues over the next 10 years under Ryan’s plan, according to CTJ. “It’s difficult to design a tax plan that will lose $2 trillion over a decade even while requiring 90 percent of taxpayers to pay more. But Congressman Ryan has met that daunting challenge,” CTJ wrote. Looking at the most optimistic figures, the Roadmap won’t balance the budget until at least 2063 and it won’t reduce federal debt for decades, exceeding 100 percent of GDP before starting to come down. While proposing drastic cuts to entitlement programs, Ryan said he wants to reduce discretionary spending — which includes such expenditures as education, homeland security and other defense spending — but he has no idea what programs to cut. “I can’t tell you the answer to that,” he said earlier this month. 

However, anticipating the plan’s unpopularity, GOP leadership isn’t publicly embracing Ryan’s plan but at the same time, it appears willing to allow it to go forward. During the midterm election campaign, the GOP dropped Ryan’s Roadmap from its “Pledge to America” scheme and as the conservative National Review noted last week, “praise for the Wisconsin Republican comes easy and often, full-scale endorsement of the roadmap less so.” But while Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said last week that he supports only “elements” of the plan, he said yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press that “we need to embrace” its direction. And last year, Boehner wouldn’t endorse the Roadmap, but at the same time couldn’t name any specific part he disagreed with. But if Boehner dislikes Ryan’s plan so much, it’s unclear why he made him chairman of the House Budget Committee and gave him new and unprecedented powers to unilaterally set spending limits instead of subjecting those limits to a vote on the House floor. 

Speaking of Ryan’s new power, Doug Thornell, a spokesperson for Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said, “Unfortunately, the House GOP is reverting back to the same arrogant governing style they implemented when they last held the majority and turned a surplus into a huge deficit.”

Related Posts:

State Of The Union Preview – Obama To Head To The Middle?

GOP’s Spending Reduction Act Of 2011 — Penny Wise, Pound Foolish?

Bachmann’s Alternate State (Of The Union)

This post first appeared on the Progress Report at the Center for American Progress.

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66 comments

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7:38PM PST on Jan 28, 2011

I could write a book. But, let me say that Social Security is NOT an entitlement!!! We Americans have paid into it during our working lives, and it is a promise that we will have this small retirement that we paid for, so that we do not spend our senior years in destitution. That is how F.D.R. planned it. It is paid for. The Repubs see this large amount of money, and rub their hands greedily in anticipation of controlling it. AND they call it an "entitlement" to confuse those many Americans who are not educated about it. Whenever Repubs want to bamboozle, they keep repeating the same word over and over again. SOCIAL SECURITY IS NOT AN ENTITLEMENT.

By the way, though I am far more liberal than the president, I was very proud of the vision he laid out for America. Very progressive and encouraging, for us to work for our future.

1:55AM PST on Jan 27, 2011

Here is another perfect example of a terrorist republican fascist .. remember what happened when they privatised the Postal ervice? mail rates blew through the roof . then the post office wanted to handle e-mail and charge everyone for it ...
here is some food for thought . the world Trade organisation has an agenda . EVERYTHING SHOULD BE PRIVATLY OWNED , EVERYTHING SHOULD BE PRIVATISED EVEN PEOPLE . IF WE ARE CORPORATE OWNED WE WOULD BE BETTER TAKEN CARE OF YA RIGHT UNTIL WE GET DISABLED OR RETIRE. This is the train of thouht that one organisation that controls all commodity shipping and pricing
in Beazil when the WTO posted in a book the new pricing schedule the president of brazil threatened to publiah it publically so everyone would see why prices are going up . the WTO went nuts trying everything including privacy threats to stop him .
One fact is well known . Any population would react violently if they saw an organisation determined to see them living in pverty.
Remember also the same 3% of the population of this country are part of these pirates

10:44AM PST on Jan 26, 2011

The American people had better sit up and take notice as to what the GOP has in store for them! These are not American ideals! You don"t rob from the poor to give to the rich!

8:32AM PST on Jan 26, 2011

Thank you for posting.

2:31AM PST on Jan 26, 2011

My recomendation for Paul Ryan resignation. This guy is embarassing his family, state and the country.
In paul words:
The constitution was build to cut taxes, make the rich and corparation more rich and powerful.
Some times brain is just another organ in human been.

9:10PM PST on Jan 25, 2011

What idiocy! I can't believe the things that a little power will do to people! This is just being silly while being infamous at the same time. Can't he see what his budget will do to the country? We will have no education so we will be a country of idiots (to match him). No way to take care of the elderly. Nothing about public funds. Nothing to help single mothers. Just the rich. But the rich don't spend much. It's the middle class & this policy will eliminate them. So we will have the rich & the poor. No middle class at all. One cannot run an economy on this distribution. It's impossible. What is he thinking? & the people who gave him his power, what were they thinking. They don't back this guy's policies, but he is still got power. So...

7:57PM PST on Jan 25, 2011

Nice alliteration for the title....thanks

7:36PM PST on Jan 25, 2011

sounds like he wants the rich big business greedy bastards to have free rein t step on the middle class and poor.

7:29PM PST on Jan 25, 2011

I have family in Wisconsin. They have nothing good to say about this man. How he keeps getting elected is beyond their comprehension. Wisconsin is becoming a failed state.

5:59PM PST on Jan 25, 2011

He's just another PUPPET who has been given the job to LIE to you, to MISLEAD you, and to LEAD you to your own demise. Those who follow and believe him will regret it...

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