9 Reasons Why We’re Giving a ‘Thumbs Down’ to the Ryan Budget

Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

House Republican leaders passed Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget this week by a vote of 219 to 205, with no Democrats voting in favor. The Ryan budget is chock full of so many terrible ideas that it’s hard to single out the biggest stinkers, but here goes.

1. Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age from 65 to 67.  Not only would raising the eligibility age shift costs to 65- and 66-year-olds and to seniors who still qualify for Medicare benefits, but it would actually *increase* overall costs throughout the health care system. Worst. Idea. Ever.

2. Giving Corporations More Tax Breaks for Outsourcing Jobs. The Ryan budget calls for a “territorial tax system,” which would eliminate U.S. taxes on the offshore profits of companies that send jobs overseas. Second worst idea ever.

3. Costing 4 Million Jobs. And that’s only in two years! According to the Economic Policy Institute, the Ryan budget would cost 1.1 million jobs in 2015 and 3 million jobs in 2016. Millions more jobs would be lost in subsequent years.

4. Giving Millionaires a $200,000 Tax Cut. The Ryan budget would cut the top marginal income tax rate from 39.6% to 25%, giving people who make more than $1 million per year tax cuts averaging between $200,000 and $330,000.

5. Turning Medicare into a Voucher Program. The Ryan budget once again proposes to end the Medicare guarantee, which would raise premiums for seniors who choose traditional Medicare and leave traditional Medicare to “wither on the vine” as private plans capture the healthiest seniors.

6. Gutting Education. The Ryan budget would slash funding for kindergarten to 12th grade education by$89 billion and higher education by $260 billion over 10 years, making college less affordable and increasingstudent indebtedness by $47 billion.

7. Gutting Investment in Transportation. The Ryan budget would slash transportation investments by$52 billion in 2015, costing jobs and making America less competitive.

8. Gutting Medicaid. The Ryan budget would cut Medicaid funding by $732 billion over 10 years by turning Medicaid into a block grant program. It would further cut Medicaid funding by repealing the Affordable Care Act, for a total cut to Medicaid of some $1.5 trillion.

9. Slashing Tax Rates for Profitable Corporations. The Ryan budget would slash the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, squandering $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in tax revenue over 10 years.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Monday Night Football Disaster in Seattle Brings More Calls to End NFL Lockout of Refs


Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog

If you were building a bridge, would you hire a work crew with a few hours of metal shop on their résumés, or trained and certified Ironworkers? Would you go into surgery with someone who only has a CPR certificate, or a real doctor with a medical degree?

If you’re NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, or one of the 32 NFL team owners, you’d go with the newbie—at least it seems that way, given their decision to lock out professional NFL officials and instead use untrained, unprepared and in-over-their-heads replacement referees.

Just look at last night’s disaster in Seattle where, according to 99.9 percent of the football world and the videotape, the refs absolutely blew a last-second call that cost the Green Bay Packers a win over the Seahawks. The replacement refs threw 24 flags—some for nonexistent penalties—while missing obvious calls in a game they had no control over.

Ironically, the actions of the “Clueless in Seattle” replacement refs—most of their experience has been in small college, minor league or high school football—have spurred even notorious Wisconsin anti-union Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to call for the end to the lockout.

Of course, we all know that’s all about their love for the Packers rather than any respect for the workers or opposition to the NFL’s greedy attempt to eliminate the referees’ pensions by a league that makes $3 billion a year in television rights. AFT President Randi Weingarten tweets:

Glad the ref lockout showed @GovWalker the importance of unions. Too bad teachers, nurses and public workers aren’t as important to him

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has called for an end to the lockout because it “continues to jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game that has taken decades to build.”

Grantland’s Bill Barnwell writes that last night’s debacle is “only the second-worst thing that could happen under the replacement refs, though we’re seemingly on our way to the first.”

As bad as a would-be win becoming a loss is, the worst thing would be if a…player suffered a serious injury by virtue of referee incompetence. That’s already been broached a few times this year.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the team’s NFLPA play rep tweeted this last night.

I love this league and love the game of football, but tonight’s debacle hurts me greatly. This is NOT the league we’re supposed to represent

Sports Illustrated senior football writer Peter King retweeted this after the game.

RT @SatansLollipop: After last night, only argument real refs need to make to Goodell is, “Do you want the Super Bowl to look like this?”

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The Facts Behind Romney and Ryan’s Medicare Lies

It took approximately five minutes after the announcement of Paul Ryan as the Republican running mate for the spin to begin. Anxious to pre-empt a conversation about Ryan’s plan to end the guarantee of Medicare, the Mitt Romney campaign is on the air with some (strikingly dishonest) Medicare ads of their own. They have plenty of money to advance this message, so it’s worth unpacking what’s really going on.

First and foremost, the Ryan plan, in any form, would mark the end of Medicare as we know it—as a guarantee of health coverage for senior citizens. Instead, it would give older people a voucher to go buy their own private insurance. The Ryan budget would also increase the eligibility age, delaying the time when retirees could get Medicare. That’s the proposal the U.S. House voted on and passed in March and it’s the model Ryan has continued to promote even as he’s suggested possible tweaks.

So let’s move on to the claims the Romney campaign is making. The Affordable Care Act is paid for partly through billions in future savings—about $700 billion over 10 years in reduced payments to health insurance companies and providers. A lot of that money stays in the Medicare system, by paying for free preventative care for seniors and closing the prescription drug “doughnut hole.” The attack leveled by Romney, Ryan and their allies—an attack that’s Jonathan Cohn rightly called “astoundingly cynical”—is that this constitutes a massive cut to Medicare.

But here’s the catch: in the Ryan budget that passed, these future savings are included, even as the rest of the ACA is repealed. So the same reductions that the Romney campaign is complaining about were voted on and approved by Ryan and virtually every House Republican.

In the ACA, the cost savings that come out of Medicare go back into the health care system. In the Ryan budget, they’ll be needed to pay for the massive tax cuts proposed in that plan. Cohn notes that not only does this money get pulled out of providing health care entirely, but the attack the Romney campaign is making is a “brazen misrepresentation of reality.” Or, to say it in fewer and shorter words, “a lie.”

The Ryan plan doesn’t replace the guarantee with the vouchers for 10 years, so that major change doesn’t immediately affect today’s retirees. But the repeal of the ACA’s provisions on prescription drugs and preventative care absolutely will. If those provisions are gone, seniors who are on Medicare now will be paying hundreds of dollars more out of pocket. Ryan’s cuts to Medicaid, which many seniors depend on for nursing home care, would also have a big impact—his proposed cuts to Medicaid and the repeal of the ACA Medicaid expansion are a big and under-covered change in his budget. Some 6 million of today’s retirees depend on Medicaid and could lose out under Ryan’s plan. This is what was in the Ryan budget the House passed, and he hasn’t backed off of this at all.

What’s more, if Ryan’s plan kicks in ten years from now, today’s Medicare beneficiaries will get an unpleasant wake-up call as the voucher plan starts to erode the program:

In 2022, when the limited-subsidy program would be introduced, seniors who qualified for traditional Medicare would be allowed to switch to the new program. If healthier or younger beneficiaries make the change to lower their out-of-pocket costs, those still participating in Medicare would be part of an insurance pool that is less healthy and more expensive. To cover those higher per-person costs, Medicare might well be forced to either raise premiums or limit reimbursements to health care providers—which could prompt many to stop taking Medicare patients.

Romney has suggested he may back off of the Medicare savings that Ryan included in his original budget. But in that case, the Ryan budget math gets even more implausible. And by the standards Romney has laid out for how he wants his budget to work, Medicare would have to be slashed either way. That these cuts to programs for vulnerable people would be required in order to pass his huge tax cuts for the rich adds insult to injury. As Derek Thompson notes, Romney’s proposals “have clear and inevitable conclusions: Tax cuts for the richest and spending cuts for the poorest.”

It’s hard to overstate how hypocritical and dishonest the new Romney-Ryan attacks over Medicare are, coming from two people who have pledged changes so radical that they’d leave it unrecognizable.

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What Does Paul Ryan Believe?

We’ve written a lot about Rep. Paul Ryan in this space, well before this weekend’s announcement that Mitt Romney would select him as the vice presidential nominee. The reason we spend so much time on Ryan is that his worldview and his proposals are the official agenda of the Republican Party—confirmed by the House Republicans passing his budget earlier this year. Ryan has spent his life in politics and is the model of the big ideological shift in Republican economic policy over that time. Romney’s pick only cements how important a player Ryan is in the debate over what kind of country we’ll have.

A quick look through the things Ryan has proposed show where his priorities lie. There are big benefits for the richest, and nothing but pain for middle-class and working-class people. In Ryan’s America, you’re on your own.

The centerpiece of the Ryan agenda is his plan to end—yes, end—Medicare. Ryan calls it a plan to “save” Medicare. Back in the real world, you can ice a pile of dirt and stick candles in it, but you can’t do that and say you’ve “saved birthday cake.”

Here’s the simple explanation: right now, Medicare is a guarantee—a program that offers coverage to every senior citizen, regardless of their economic background. It’s popular, it’s effective, and it keeps seniors out of poverty. Ryan claims his plan “protects” Medicare, but what it actually does is replace the guarantee with a voucher that seniors will use to buy their own insurance in the private market. Older people require more care and face higher health risks, so they’re more expensive to insure, especially in the individual market—the reason Medicare works is that it’s social insurance, which everyone pays into, and where a huge pool of beneficiaries helps distribute costs. Additionally, the value of the vouchers declines relative to health care costs over time, so that more and more will be paid out of retirees’ pockets.

Anyone who has ever had to deal with the private insurance market, raise your hand if you would like to rely on it—using a voucher of ever-decreasing value—when you’re no longer employed and most in need of health care? Yup, I thought so.

Last night on “60 Minutes,” Romney and Ryan sat together for an interview, and Romney said two things about Medicare that, taken together, are a pretty clear tell: he said that on the one hand, their plan would just mean “more choices,” and on the other hand, he insisted that people over 55 wouldn’t be affected. Which leads us to an important question: if all their Medicare plan represents is “more choices” and it saves Medicare, why wait? If it’s really going to be a good thing, why not give current retires and those near retirement the benefit of the change? Why reassure older people that Medicare won’t change if the plan really “protects” Medicare? The answer, of course, is that the plan means less care and more costs for beneficiaries, and they don’t want to take the political risk of imposing more cost and less care right away.

Speaking of eroding guarantees, Ryan is also one of the architects of Social Security privatization. His plan was the model for the proposal that President Bush tried, and failed, to push through in 2005. It would have diverted funds out of Social Security and into the stock market.

Anyone who lived through 2008, and saw what the market crash did to your 401k or your home value, raise your hand if you thought to yourself, “Gee, if only my Social Security had been invested in the market, too.” Anyone?

Let’s move on to taxes. Another major part of Ryan’s budget is a plan to completely eliminate taxes on investments, meaning that only work would be subject to income tax. That’s a huge boon to the very richest—CEOs, wealthy heirs, and financial industry executives especially. Let’s take Mitt Romney as an example: under a Ryan-style tax plan, Romney would pay a tax rate of less than 1 percent. The Joint Economic Committee of Congress estimates that the richest 1 percent would get a $238,000 tax cut under Ryan’s plan, while the top 0.1 percent would get a tax cut of more than $1.1 million. That’s where the savings from Ryan’s changes to Medicare would go—higher costs for seniors on fixed incomes, lower taxes for multi-millionaires.

Going beyond Medicare and taxes, Ryan’s budget is pretty hard on all the other stuff the federal government does, too. And by “all the other stuff” I mean things like schools, roads, Pell Grants for college, food inspection, and food stamps, to name a few. Those are programs that employ people, put money in working-class people’s pockets, and help keep America growing over the long term.

It’s no wonder that the Ryan budget has been described as “the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history,” one that would cause “an even wider gap between the very well-off and everyone else.”

Raise your hand if you think that solves any of the problems America faces. Anyone?

Photo of Rep. Paul Ryan by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

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Happy Birthday, Medicare!

It was 47 years Ago today that President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the two bills that created Medicare and Medicaid, guaranteeing health care coverage to retirees and people in poverty.

The new laws led to a dramatic decline in poverty rates among senior citizens and a broadening of health care coverage for the most vulnerable people across the country. It’s a major accomplishment that’s worth celebrating—and protecting.

The Strengthen Social Security campaign has a great set of reports coming out that detail how these laws affect each state. That’s not just a set of statistics—that’s parents and grandparents, friends and neighbors who have basic health care coverage.

Unfortunately, the debate over Medicare isn’t settled. After all, Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the budget committee, has targeted the guarantee of Medicare for demolition. The proposal Ryan wrote—the proposal which passed the U.S. House this year and which Mitt Romney has endorsed—would replace Medicare with a voucher system that would radically shift costs towards retirees and drastically cut Medicaid. Ryan has pulled the Republican Party hard to the right with his zeal for privatization—and Medicare and Medicaid, two critical safety nets, are the next target of his crusade to “radically curtail the government’s role in protecting citizens from life’s misfortunes.”

And one key piece of moving us towards health care access that’s truly universal is the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act. It would save lives by giving coverage to millions who currently fall through the cracks. That’s now under threat from governors like Florida’s Rick Scott, Texas’ Rick Perry and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who put a much higher value on scoring ideological points than they do on expanding health care coverage.

So it’s a very happy 47th birthday for Medicare and Medicaid—but we’re going to have to fight hard to make sure they get to see 48.

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Pro-Working Family Candidate Unseats Entrenched Incumbent in Milwaukee

Source: facebook.com via Working America on Pinterest

The big news on the cable channels last night was the continuing battle for the Republican presidential nomination. But down the ballot in Milwaukee, amidst the unprecedented Scott Walker-inspired anti-worker fervor, a community organizer defeated a longtime Alderman in a nearly overlooked upset.

Pro-working family candidate Jose Perez challenged three-term Alderman James Witkowiak on a platform of economic fairness. A lifelong Milwaukee resident, Perez worked in real estate, economic development, and with the faith community as Executive Director of MICAH, a social justice coalition of city congregations. He took the incumbent Witkowiak to task for voting against policies working families need – and won.

“The people of District 12 went to the polls to make a change,” said Working America State Director Peter Drummond. “Yesterday, they united across demographic lines to get good representation for their families and communities.” Witkowiak used to be popular in this district, in which 49 percent of registered voters self-identify as Latino and 43 percent identify as white.

Working America supported Perez against Witkowiak—who became a symbol of candidates who take labor’s support for granted even as they undermine basic tenets of economic fairness. “Working people are tired of politicians who claim to represent their interests and then vote against minimum job requirements such as a decent wage or the ability to earn time off for maternity leave. That’s not who they want representing District 12,” Drummond said.

This victory would be significant on its own, but think about what’s going on in Wisconsin right now. After six straight months of job loss in the state, major figures like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are standing fast with the incredibly divisive policies of Gov. Scott Walker. Since he has no evidence that his policies are good for Wisconsin, Walker is relying on millions of dollars in attack ads against workers and their unions. “There is a lot of poisonous rhetoric coming out of the right-wing noise machine,” Drummond said, “but, as evidenced yesterday, working families in District 12 know who stands with them and who doesn’t.”

So despite the endless attack ads on the airwaves, the vicious anti-worker agenda coming out of the Governor’s office, and the contentious political atmosphere in the state, this was at the end an election about bringing pro-worker leadership to a city that needs it now more than ever. “We shared our vision of Honesty, Integrity, and New Leadership for our Neighborhoods and the people of the 12th District responded clearly,” Perez wrote last night, “Tonight, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we get to work and begin bringing the leadership to City Hall that the people of the near south side truly deserve.”

The Milwaukee Area Labor Council, SEIU and We Are Milwaukee also played critical roles in this upset.

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Paul Ryan’s Bad-Deal Budget

To help end the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt proposed “the New Deal.” Now Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the House Budget Committee, has a different idea: call it “the Terrible Deal.”

Ryan released his budget today and, unsurprisingly, it’s a blueprint for a very different country—one in which the rich get trillions in tax cuts and the most vulnerable see their safety net cut away. “If you’re very wealthy and believe struggling families have it too easy, you’re going to love what the House GOP has put together,” notes Steve Benen.

In Ryan’s vision for the country, programs that are vital to education, infrastructure, health care and retirement security get slashed or eliminated. Most notably, Ryan continues (in a slightly watered-down form) his push to replace the guarantee of Medicare with vouchers for private coverage. The effect of this over the long term is a massive shift of costs to seniors as their health care vouchers give them less coverage over time.

The Medicaid program, which provides a guarantee of coverage to the very poorest, comes in for even bigger cuts. As Slate’s Matt Yglesias says, what Ryan’s plan does is “make Medicaid beneficiaries get by with less health care.” The suggestion, coming from Ryan, that what he’s trying to do is “strengthen” Medicaid is, as Yglesias points out, insulting nonsense.

Taken together, Ryan’s plans to replace Medicare, slash Medicaid and repeal the Affordable Care Act would leave the number of uninsured people “much higher” with reduced access to care generally.

Health care programs aren’t the only ones that face cuts. Everything from food stamps to highway funding gets targeted, in ways that impose austerity on an economy still recovering from recession. (And, just as a bonus, the modest regulations on Wall Street set by the recent financial reform bill are swept away.)

Ezra Klein, looking at the Ryan budget, says that Ryan expects the poorest to bear nearly all of the burden:

Ryan prides himself on making tough choices. But where such choices need to be made for politically powerful constituencies…Ryan punts. When such choices need to be made for programs that the poor depend on, however, Ryan is considerably more specific, and considerably more willing to inflict real budgetary pain on current beneficiaries.

What do we get in exchange for all of those cuts? Well, the wealthy and large corporations get around $3 trillion in tax cuts, although Ryan claims his tax plan will actually be revenue-neutral because of changes to tax deductions he isn’t interested in specifying, and because of growth projections based on the classic economic theory of “because I said so.”

And worth noting is that at least one expert has looked at the number and determined that Ryan’s proposal would, contrary to his zealous declarations, actually increase the deficit.

Washington, D.C. is kind of a funny town, where conventional wisdom is set by the preferences of a small political and media elite rather than by reality. And in Washington D.C., Ryan gets credit for being “serious,” “brave” and “an expert” for the way his budgets flatter the ideology of the conventional-wisdom-setters. But it takes no bravery or seriousness to pander to wealthy campaign donors and highly-paid pundits by telling them how much everyone else needs to sacrifice.

Jonathan Bernstein puts it even more concisely: “in budgetary terms, there’s no reason to take this thing seriously, or to give Ryan any points for courage.”

Politics is about priorities, as I often say. Rep. Ryan has, with this budget, made it clear what his priorities are: low taxes on the very wealthy, the demolition of the Medicare guarantee, and a government that does almost nothing to help people get ahead. Those are his values and he’s entitled to them—but the thousands of people we talk to every week aren’t exactly clamoring for less security for themselves and lower taxes for the rich.

Photo of Rep. Paul Ryan by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

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Ryancare, Rebooted

This week Wisconsin’s Rep. Paul Ryan is at it again, once more offering a proposal that would replace Medicare. This time he’s joined by Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat. To say this proposal is better than the initial Ryancare plan—which would have totally privatized Medicare—is something akin to saying replacing your birthday cake with dirt is better than replacing your birthday cake with rocks.

Even policy observers inclined to be sympathetic to Wyden’s intentions are critical of this new plan. Ezra Klein says it’s “not a compromise proposal” and doesn’t advance cost control or coverage. Jonathan Cohn says that the Ryan-Wyden plan doesn’t actually improve upon Medicare at all and indeed could jeopardize the guarantee of health care coverage for future retirees. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the plan would shift more costs to seniors and potentially undermine Medicare in the long term.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was blunter, calling Ryan-Wyden “a fundamental misdiagnosis” and a proposal that would “cripple Medicare.”

Just as we shouldn’t privatize Social Security and push our seniors’ retirement security into the stock market, we shouldn’t privatize Medicare and push seniors’ health security into the hands of the insurance industry. In fact, Medicare already has some features of an exchange, through the Medicare Advantage program. And the evidence shows that traditional Medicare saves money compared to Medicare Advantage and to the private insurance market in general. Ryan-Wyden is a fictional solution.

What’s grating is not that Ryan is looking for another way to dismantle Medicare—after all, he’s repeatedly shown that it’s his top priority. No, the trouble is that Sen. Wyden—who represents more than 150,000 Working America members in Oregon—is so enthusiastically signing on.

Wyden usually votes the right way on issues that matter to working families, but being an elected leader is about more than votes. It’s about actual leadership. By legitimizing Ryan’s crusade to undermine the guarantee of Medicare, Wyden is doing damage to the priorities he ostensibly votes for.

Wyden should take a tip from his home-state colleague Jeff Merkley, a Working America member and a consistent leader on the issues that matter to his fellow members. Instead of pursuing attention by allying with right-wing politicians like Ryan, Merkley has chosen to stand out by acting as a voice for his working-class and middle class constituents: demanding real solutions to the housing crisis, insisting on accounting for the jobs impact of “Super Committee” proposals and trying to strengthen financial reform. His leadership may not get the kind of breathless praise from self-styled “centrist” pundits like Wyden does, but he’s clearly more interested in having a positive impact on working people’s lives.

If Wyden wants to boost our health care system in a way that cuts costs and actually increases access to care, how about adding a public option to health care reform?

Photo of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) from OregonDOT on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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Out of Touch: Ryan’s “Class Warfare” Speech

Update your dictionaries, everyone! Proposing modest future tax increases on some of the money earned by a tiny minority of taxpayers in order to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs is now defined as “warfare.”

Rep. Paul Ryan—famous for introducing the budget proposal that would demolish Medicare—offered up a speech today aimed at amplifying the nonsensical “class warfare” talking point. He delivered it before a friendly audience at the right-wing Heritage Foundation.

So what’s his big speech about? Mostly, it’s a furious rehash of Ryan’s by-now-tedious assertion that what is holding back the economy is primarily about taxation and regulation. Like a hacky stand-up comic trotting out dated topical jokes, Ryan is falling back on his old material.

Ryan casts any change from our historic low levels of taxes on the wealthy as radical, abusive and illegitimate. Never mind that poll after poll has robustly shown that, when it comes down to priorities, small tax increases on the wealthy to pay for jobs programs are very popular. The proposals in the American Jobs Act would still leave taxes for everyone—even the very wealthiest—lower than they were during the 1990s. That’s the “warfare” Ryan is so terrified of?

Ryan is writing fiction about economic policy, not describing the world. Not only are taxes low, but the “regulatory uncertainty” attack has been repeatedly and convincingly debunked, and the public sector has been shedding employees.

In the midst of high unemployment and widespread public discontent over an economy that’s not working, Ryan has the gall to suggest that advocacy for jobs bills is what’s “sowing social unrest.” Ryan—a supporter of Scott Walker’s fight against teachers—dares to accuse others of playing on “fear, envy and resentment” and “pitting one group against another.” He says he wants to “lower the hurdles to upward mobility” while cutting public support for education and job training programs. He even claims to stand for “the powerless.” (And earlier this week Ryan, who, to note again, pushed for the replacement of Medicare with vouchers, even accused President Obama of moving us towards “painful austerity.”)

Either Ryan is completely out of touch, or he has utter contempt for his audience’s intelligence.

Where has Ryan been when it comes to reining in the big banks and the dodgy practices that caused the financial crisis? Where has he been when here’s a chance to put people to work on infrastructure projects? Where has he been when it’s time to help keep people in their homes or make it easier to pay for college? Where has he been when it comes to protecting working people from abuses by insurance companies, banks or their bosses? The same place he’s always stood: on the other side.

Give politicians like Ryan a tiny bit of sympathy: they’re trying to defend the same policies aimed at the top 1% that they always have at the very moment that a broad movement is emerging asking for politics and the economy to work for the other 99% as well.

Like Rep. Eric Cantor, Ryan is forced to tread a difficult line between offering the same tiresome policies and pretending those policies are actually fresh new ideas that will boost the economic fortunes of ordinary people. (Back in the real world, Ryan-style policies would make inequality worse.)

The tactic of blocking popular, common-sense and economically beneficial policies isn’t just based on raw ideology. It’s also deeply political. Politicians like Ryan and Sen. Mitch McConnell know that, thanks to their relatively low profile, their ability to kill jobs bills will be interpreted by the press and many voters as representing Obama’s failure to get things done. (The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent has done an excellent job explaining this strategy.)

The bottom line on Paul Ryan is that all the spinning and accusations in the world don’t make his agenda into a prescription for a fair economy.

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Paul Ryan Doubles Down on “You’re-On-Your-Own” Healthcare

Here we go again.

Remember Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and his budget plan that would demolish Medicare under the guise of saving it? (Many of the people in his district sure do.) This week, in a speech at Stanford University, Ryan laid out a vision that would go even further—detonating not only Medicare but the rest of our health care system and leaving everyone on their own in a consumer-unfriendly, costly private insurance market. This expanded version of “Ryancare” is what passes for Ryan’s attempt to propose a replacement for the health care reform bill that passed last year.

As David Dayen puts it, “if you liked getting a coupon instead of your Medicare and being pushed out on your own onto the individual marketplace, you’ll love getting the same coupon for Medicaid and for any coverage you get from an employer.”

Let’s compare and contrast what Ryan is proposing with how Medicare actually works and how the Affordable Care Act will work.

As it exists now—and as the overwhelming political consensus says it should exist—Medicare is a guarantee of coverage for all seniors. Meanwhile, under the Affordable Care Act, those at or close to the poverty line are covered by Medicaid, while everyone else can get insurance through their employer or buy policies in a marketplace with subsidies and strict patient protections. What this means is that nearly everyone gets coverage, and their ability to get care is protected.

Ryan’s plan sweeps all of that away, leaving behind a credit to buy a private insurance plan—a credit that rapidly loses value relative to health care costs. The way it saves money is by covering less and pushing more costs and more risk onto individuals. Under “Ryancare,” the many protections that health care reform put into place would be eliminated, giving free rein to the worst abuses of the insurance industry. If your Ryancare credit can’t cover the cost of a policy, you’ll make up the difference, and if you can’t afford a plan that will actually cover the care you need, you’re out of luck.

The hostility of politicians like Ryan to the power of individuals to band together and bargain for a better deal from corporations is long-standing, so it’s no surprise that it shapes their attitudes towards the insurance market. Ryan’s plan is a mixture of ideological wishful thinking and callous disregard for how a health care system should work.

It’s embarrassing what passes for serious policy proposals in Washington.

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