Over the past couple of weeks the American people have gotten a crash-course in the radical, inept and disingenuous way in which the Republican Party prefers to govern. Both the Republican budget unveiled last week, as well as the dumb spectacle surrounding the government shutdown negotiations, have exposed the GOP as a party of extreme ideology and stale economic ideas.
Paul Ryan, the Republican House budget chairman, introduced his much-hyped budget proposal last week to a slew of fawning DC pundits who described the plan as “courageous” and “serious.” Unfortunately, when you dig beneath the veneer of spin and bogus math, the Ryan budget is an act of extreme cowardice and dishonesty.
On a fundamental level, Ryan's silly proposals center on the exhaustively debunked theories of trickledown economics, stripping funding for essential government programs that lower-income families rely on, like food stamps, Medicaid, and other wildly effective education programs like Head Start. Ryan makes the outrageous claim that his proposed cuts — two thirds of which target the poor — will lower the deficit. But the truth is his slashing is offset by trillions of dollars of tax cuts for the wealthy and for massive corporations like oil companies. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office completely rejected Ryan's figures in its analysis, projecting that his plan would actually increase the deficit over the next decade, and although it would bring about decreases after that, the savings would be overwhelmingly achieved by drastic cuts in medical care for poor people and the elderly.
Arguably the most controversial aspect of Ryan's plan revolves around Medicare. Ryan's approach has been described as “cutting” or “reforming” the program, which is necessary but inaccurate in this case. Ryan's plan would abolish Medicare entirely. Ryan wants to essentially privatize Medicare by implementing a voucher system that can be used to purchase plans through private insurance companies. But the CBO projects that in 20 years, the vouchers would roughly cover only about a third of the average insurance policy, leaving older people on fixed incomes screwed. Most cowardly is the fact that Ryan refuses to touch Medicare for the Baby Boomers, a transparent recognition that older people vote and would exact their revenge on his party. So instead he places the burden on young people who either have a tendency not to vote, or on those too young to vote at all. Ryan can read the polls that show two thirds of Americans completely oppose cutting Medicare, much less destroying it. Add to that another provision in the plan that calls for the repeal of Obama's health care reform law, stripping tens of millions of people of health care access without any type of replacement plan.
As for the “seriousness” of the Ryan plan; one Republican strategist I talked to last week literally laughed out loud at the proposal's absurd claim that in a few short years its implementation would lower unemployment to below 3 percent. Ryan got this figure from an analysis by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which admitted a few days after the proposal's release that their numbers were inaccurate. And in perhaps the greatest display of the GOP's delusional thinking, the Ryan Budget would bring the percentage of government spending in a couple of decades down almost as low as it was in the 1920s.
Overall, the Republican vision is completely backwards: It devastates investment in younger generations with massive cuts to Pell Grants and education, and asks better-off seniors, the very wealthy and corporations to sacrifice nothing.
The GOP's priorities are clear.