Monday, August 13, 2012

small print ~
(paul ryan)






"The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a well-respected liberal think tank, describes the Ryan budget this way:

The new Ryan budget is a remarkable document — one that, for most of the past half-century, would have been outside the bounds of mainstream discussion due to its extreme nature. In essence, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids. It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).

The Ryan plan, which has received majority backing twice from Republicans in the House and once from Republicans in the Senate, calls for a major retrenchment of the welfare state.

Even as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget would impose trillions of dollars in spending cuts, at least 62 percent of which would come from low-income programs, it would enact new tax cuts that would provide huge windfalls to households at the top of the income scale. New analysis by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center finds that people earning more than $1 million a year would receive $265,000 apiece in new tax cuts, on average, on top of the $129,000 they would receive from the Ryan budget’s extension of President Bush’s tax cuts. The new tax cuts at the top would dwarf those for middle-income families. After-tax incomes would rise by 12.5 percent among millionaires, but just 1.8 percent for middle-income households. Low-income working families would actually be hit with tax increases.

In addition, the budget Ryan presented to the House in April last year called for the elimination of taxes on capital gains and dividend income. Romney pointed out in a January 2012 debate that “Under that plan, I’d have paid no taxes in the last two years.”

Even more important, in political terms, those now under 55 would face an utterly transformed Medicare when they reach 65, a health care program that would steadily shift costs to beneficiaries. The Ryan budget would also cap total federal Medicaid spending, which would force sharp reductions in eligibility and coverage.

In an email to the Times, Robert Shapiro, Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs under President Clinton, wrote:

Medicare is voucherized and then increases at GDP [Gross Domestic Product] growth + 1 percent per -year, versus actual increases in health care costs averaging over the last two decades 5.7%; and Medicaid is block-granted at current levels and grows at the rate of overall inflation – and neither formula takes account of increases in the number of recipients.

Medicaid is currently the single largest source of support for long-term care of the elderly and disabled. While just over three quarters of Medicaid recipients are children and families receiving basic health coverage, 64 percent of all Medicaid dollars go for the most expensive care (of old people in nursing homes and of the disabled), according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Most of the elderly population is not equipped to absorb higher medical costs. Almost half of those over the age of 65 depend on Social Security for 80 percent or more of their total income. At the start of 2012, the average annual Social Security benefit was $14,760.

William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and Stephen F. Hayes, a senior writer there, see the cost-cutting Ryan budget as a plus:

Republicans own the Ryan budget. And so does Mitt Romney. The question, it seems to us, is not whether Republicans and their presidential nominee own the Ryan budget, but how they choose to talk about it. Republicans shouldn’t worry about having entitlement reform as part of the campaign debate; they should want it there. The 2012 campaign should be about leadership, and about the failure of Barack Obama to provide it on the big issues, including – especially – on entitlement reform, debt, and deficits.

Bill Burton, who was Obama’s deputy press secretary and is now a senior strategist at Priorities USA, is delighted to see Romney wrap his arms around Ryan: “The Ryan budget is one of the most toxic documents that a political party has ever embraced,” Burton said in a phone interview with the Times (which was also conducted before Ryan was unveiled). When Priorities USA tested reactions to specific provisions of the budget in focus groups, according to Burton, the participants thought the cuts were so draconian that “they couldn’t believe a politician would support those policies.”

The momentum behind the Ryan plan within the Republican Party is so strong that Romney has had no qualms about giving it his blessing. In a March 22 interview with a Milwaukee radio station, Romney defended the controversial package of budget and tax cuts:

It’s time to tell people the truth. And if they want to vote for something less than the truth, that’s their right. But I’ve got a campaign of telling people the truth and I believe the American people are ready for the truth and understand that all of the promises and the attacks and so forth that are part of the political process have to be pushed aside for the truth. And so my campaign’s about telling people we’ve got to cut back on our spending and finally live within our means or we could face economic calamity where what we’ve gone through over the last three years would look like a cakewalk.

Conservatives joyful over the selection of Ryan contend that whatever damage Democrats can inflict on Romney with the Ryan budget will be more than made up for by two factors: the willingness of the Republican ticket to forthrightly campaign on a detailed economic agenda, and Ryan’s appeal to white voters, including many blue-collar and Catholic voters.

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard argues that a Romney-Ryan ticket will now be equipped to take on the Obama White House:

Mitt Romney, the cautious candidate, wary of being specific, and counting on the bad economy to defeat President Obama – forget all that! The Romney who picked Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate is an entirely different person. He’s prepared to take the fight to Obama on the biggest bundle of issues – spending, debt, the deficit, taxes, entitlements, and the reversing of America’s accelerating decline under Obama. Specifics? There will be plenty.

The National Review stresses Ryan’s Catholicism:

One strength he brings to the ticket is a grounding in the social teaching of the Catholic Church, to which he belongs, and a willingness to engage with those who thoughtlessly equate this teaching with support for an ever-expanding welfare state. These traits could have more than parochial interest this year, because a disproportionate number of Catholic voters are up for grabs.

The overarching strategy of the Romney campaign is to turn out as many white voters as possible in a contest that may well come down to turnout on Election Day.

The Ryan budget, however, tackles a broad array of domestic social spending, and in slicing Medicare and Medicaid, Ryan’s plan imposes harsh costs on a very large proportion of white voters. An overwhelming majority of Medicare recipients, 78 percent, are white. Just 9 percent are black, 8 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Asian-American and 3 percent “other.” A solid plurality, 43 percent, of Medicaid recipients is white, 22 percent are black, 28 percent Hispanic and the rest are “other.”

A February 2012 study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities of all federal entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, unemployment insurance, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare), the school lunch program, Earned Income Tax Credit, and the refundable Child Tax Credit – finds that non-Hispanic whites, who make up 64 percent of the nation’s population, received 69 percent of the total benefits. Hispanics, who make up 16 percent of the population, received 12 percent of the payments, and blacks, who account for 12 percent of the population, received 14 percent of the benefits.

The Obama campaign and its allies are preparing to show that the Ryan plan will severely cut social insurance programs that not only provide help to poor people, but also to many in the middle class, including millions and millions of whites. The Romney campaign and its supporters, in turn, will try to make the case that these programs go disproportionately to the undeserving (and heavily minority) poor, who should not be subsidized by taxpayer dollars.

Until now, the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA has concentrated its commercials attacking Romney on his stewardship of Bain Capital, especially on decisions by the company to put businesses Bain acquired into bankruptcy, to close plants and to lay off workers. It has done so in part because of the focus group findings that voters were reluctant to believe that a mainstream politician would back the scope of cuts called for in the Ryan proposal.

Those Democratic anti-Bain ads, according to Burton, have been designed to soften up the electorate to make it possible to run, in the near future, commercials linking Romney to the Ryan budget. The anti-Bain commercials have the long-range goal, in Burton’s words, of “building a ‘thought structure’ among voters of a guy who makes decisions based on profits, and not on the concerns of middle class families.” Adding Ryan to the ticket serves to greatly facilitate development of this ‘thought structure.’

Which bring us to another problematic aspect of Romney’s decision to pick Ryan. The very qualities that attract the right to Ryan — his ideological purity and his verbal dexterity in making the case for smaller government — are very likely to eclipse Romney, who despite the boldness of his choice still projects a weak political persona and ideological ambiguity. No candidate willingly demotes himself from first to second fiddle, but Romney has chosen to do so.

In this context, Fred Barnes paid the ticket a backhanded compliment:

Romney showed that, like a smart businessman, he knows his shortcomings. For all his attacks on Obama’s economic policies, Romney has failed to create a sense of urgency about the country’s faltering economic situation. And without a national fear of an impending catastrophe, he can’t defeat Obama.

Romney’s solution, Barnes wrote, is to get someone who can: “No one in America is better than Ryan in spelling out, with figures and facts, the crisis America faces.”

For very different reasons, Democrat strategists like Burton and Garin would agree."


Thomas B. Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University

from nytimes "Paul Ryan's Liberal Fan Cub"





photo: from the film "Darkman"




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