With the selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney, the polygamist of policy stances, has married himself to the Ryan Budget whether he likes it or not. Not surprisingly, within a day of the announcement, Mitt had already taken multiple positions on his commitment to his running mate’s plan. Immediately after the announcement, the campaign released a statement indicating that Romney would present his own budget and plan for deficit reduction as president – in effect preemptively divorcing himself from the Ryan Budget. However, in the Romney/Ryan joint 60 Minutes interview, Romney indicated that as VP, Ryan would take the lead in certain issues where his passions and expertise lie. Unless Mitt plans to let Ryan attempt to privatize Social Security again, Ryan’s areas of expertise are undoubtedly the budget and deficit reduction.
Paul Ryan has explicitly stated what the GOP fears: that he means for his budget to be the basis of an election. The introduction of his Path to Prosperity states that “Americans, not Washington, deserve to choose the path their nation takes, and this budget presents a clear choice.”
Summaries of Paul Ryan’s budget are as plentiful as they are damning. His transformation of Medicare into a voucher system has received the most attention, but his plans to turn SNAP (also known as food stamps) and Medicaid over to the states have been condemned. Catholic nuns and bishops alike denounce Ryan’s disregard for the poor and needy in favor of tax cuts for the rich.. Nonetheless, his 96-page budget plan reveals many more unpalatable policy priorities and intellectual dishonesty that demonstrate he is unfit to be one heartbeat removed from the Presidency.
On Monday’s OutFront, CNN reported that Ryan’s plan would not cut military spending, whereas President Obama’s proposed budget would cut nearly $550 billion, if combined with the sequester mechanism, over a period of ten years. CNN is correct, but incomplete. Ryan would counteract these cuts by spending $6.2 trillion on national defense spending over the next ten years. His justification? “A safer world and a more prosperous America go hand in hand.” This so-called intellectual leader of his party fails to provide any empirical evidence to support his argument.
Ryan’s budget denounces Obama’s alleged crony capitalism, particularly his investments in green energy which “allow the government to play venture capitalist with taxpayers’ money.” Absent from his rhetoric is the recognition of generous subsidies enjoyed by Big Oil. Ryan prefers to promote private development of nuclear, wind, and solar energy. If so, the American solar industry will remain behind global leaders, such as China, and domestic solar manufacturing will be perpetually crippled in favor of domestic solar retailers who purchase less expensive foreign solar panels.
Like Romney at Bain Capital, Ryan’s plan for the economy promotes outsourcing. He disagrees with the current approach whereby US multinationals are taxed at foreign rates on profits earned abroad, and taxed at US rates on the repatriated profits. This system is designed to keep this money in the US to begin with and discourage foreign investment by companies whose headquarters are in the United States. Instead, Ryan wants US multinationals to pay foreign taxes, and nothing more – a policy which fundamentally incentivizes outsourcing.
Ryan’s antipathy to the poor has been well documented, as previously mentioned, and is reflected in his attitude towards the expansion of SNAP in response to the recession. He decries the “additional funding to the states if they achieved higher enrollment levels.” Simply, Ryan thinks it is a bad idea for people to get food in times of dire need.
The American agricultural sector is currently in a very precarious state, as sweeping droughts have ruined most crops. Ryan is indifferent to the plight of farmers, and wants “agricultural producers to assume the same kind of responsibility for managing risk that other businesses do.” Without government-supported crop insurance, many farmers would be immediately impoverished due to the poor yield. Ryan thinks they should take responsibility for the weather. In addition, his budget cuts fixed payments to farmers. This portion of Ryan’s budget has received minimal attention, and should be trumpeted by rural Democrats en masse as the election campaign progresses.
Ryan’s misguided priorities, reflected in his budget, are matched only by his intellectual dishonestly. Examples include:
- Ryan critiques the Obama administration for ignoring the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson Commission, while omitting that he voted against the very same proposals.
- Ryan states that “government spending is no substitute for a true recovery led by the private sector” when no recovery in American history has ever been led by the private sector.
- Ryan claims that marginal tax rate increases decrease economic output, blatantly ignoring the growth experienced during the Clinton era.
- He believes the recovery is hampered because “borrowed money and debt is fueling uncertainty for businesses and job creators, who know that today’s deficits are tomorrow’s interest rate and tax increases.” If that were the case, businesses would invest now to avoid higher interest rates in the future. The problem is that there is not sufficient demand to meet an expanded supply, if it were to occur.
President Obama has a poignant, concise, and correct diagnosis of Ryan – a decent man, a family man, but a pioneer and spokesman for a vision fundamentally at odds with American values and detrimental to the development of an American Dream that you don’t have to be asleep to believe.