Rep. Paul Ryan released his new budget today, and, to nobody’s surprise, it’s the same vision that served him so poorly as the 2012 vice presidential candidate.
First and foremost, this is a budget about redistribution—upwards. The centerpiece of Ryan’s budget is a major reduction in tax rates for rich people and corporations, “paid for” by vague hand-waving about maybe closing loopholes. It’s as true now as it was last year that this would actually mean a big shift of the tax burden from richer people to middle-class people.
In pitching his plan, Ryan claims to be primarily concerned with balancing the budget and closing deficits. This is, to put it bluntly, a lie: the wisdom of doing so aside, there are plenty of ways to reduce deficits that don’t start with a huge tax cut. Indeed, as Ezra Klein notes, Ryan’s budget does not look, primarily, like a deficit-reduction argument as much as it looks like an ideological statement about what government shouldn’t do. It’s dressed up like a deficit reduction plan because deficit reduction sounds nice while Ryan’s ideas are incredibly unpopular.
So what gets cut in Ryan’s budget? As you might have guessed, it’s particularly hard on health care programs—including the repeal of all of the coverage provisions in the Affordable Care Act, an increased Medicare age, the introduction of privatized vouchers into Medicare and major cuts to Medicaid. Millions of people would lose health care coverage as a result.
The budget is also predictably brutal to the broad category called “discretionary spending”—namely, everything the government does that isn’t defense, Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. That includes funds for public schools, roads, college grants and loans, food inspection, housing aid, scientific research and food stamps.
Budget experts at the Economic Policy Institute and the Century Foundation report that, at least in the short term, Ryan’s budget would cost America 2 million jobs and 1.7% of GDP in 2014. It’s the kind of austerity that we know is counter-productive to prosperity for most people.
So programs that middle-class and lower-income depend on will be slashed; their taxes may go up; rich people’s taxes and corporate taxes will go way down; and it won’t even do the economy any good.
Jonathan Cohn puts it well in noting that this is just a re-hash of the same vision Paul Ryan has been pushing for a few years:
The numbers are a lot less important than the overall message. Budgets are statements of values. And with this budget, Ryan, once again, has revealed what Republican values are: cutting taxes, primarily to benefit the wealthy, while savaging programs on which the poorest Americans rely. It was true before and it’s true now.
As has been noted repeatedly, we’ve had this fight already. The Ryan vision was a centerpiece of the 2012 elections, and it was rejected.
But that doesn’t matter to Ryan, because his ideas of what budgets are for, and what the economy is for, have never been about the prosperity of most people. His “new” budget is just another example of how his philosophy is about rewarding the already-privileged and leaving everybody else behind.