Paul Ryan’s Welfare Reform Ideas Are Even Worse Than You Think

If you ask congressional conservatives about their plan to revive the economy, you’re not likely to get a very detailed answer, since they tend to doubt that the government is the solution—to a bad economy or anything else. But the neoliberal philosopher king of Capitol Hill, Representative Paul Ryan, has rolled out a plan to reduce government and reduce poverty simultaneously. He calls it “Expanding Opportunity in America”—and he plans to do it by shrinking what’s left of the welfare state. Under the banner of “flexibility for accountability,” Ryan presents an agenda that reflects “deregulation for deprivation,” systematically reducing public assistance in hopes of “incentivizing” people to be somehow less poor. New research shows us that the plan would deepen the damage already inflicted by eighteen years of reforming welfare out of existence. The centerpiece of Ryan’s latest budget plan is the so-called “opportunity grant,” which consolidates eleven federal programs into a single chunk of funding, including food stamps, subsidized childcare, and housing funds. This ultimately forces welfare admnistrations to parcel out money for, say, rehabilitation programs for people with disabilities, senior centers and subsidized daycare for toddlers, all from the same capped fiscal pot, which in turn dilutes overall funding streams and undercuts resources for directly assisting the poor. Progressive critics say that this formula has been tried before, with the 1996 welfare reform law that gutted key public assistance programs. Those measures capped benefits and lumped programs into a single pot of funding, with disastrous effects on the poor. Ryan’s “opportunity grant,” as Bob and Barbara Dreyfuss reported earlier, would impose the same austerity two-step of capping and consolidating. Following the “accountability” framework of the current welfare laws, Continue Reading

MSM Mirrors GOP’s Line on Paul Ryan’s Medicare-Killing Budget Plan: Don’t Hurt His Feelings!

All’s fair in love and class warfare, so it really wasn’t much of a surprise when Republicans reacted to President Obama’s criticism of Representative Paul Ryan’s Medicare-killing, rich-enriching budget plan last week with cries of “insult” and “partisanship.” (See Jon Stewart on the GOP’s fainting-couch fragilities here.) But do you, as I do, still expect—like a dim-witted whack-a-mole—that the non-Fox mainstream media will refrain from automatically repeating right-wing talking points? Well, whack!—’cause the MSM is just about certain that the core of this story is what Obama is doing to the handsome young Ryan, and not what corporate lobbyists, Tea Party stalwarts, most GOPs, some Dems, Ryan and maybe Obama himself (depending on how much he caves) are about to do to the poor and middle class. That was on Thursday. On Friday, the Morning Joe crew devoted another sixteen-minute segment to the issue of Republican hurt feelings. “To say that they’re not American in their proposal, I think, crosses a line,” said the sour-faced Mark Halperin. Scarborough again worried that if a Republican president had said the same thing with Nancy Pelosi sitting in the front row, “not only would the leftwing blogosphere go crazy, the news networks would go crazy, the New York Times would go crazy, the Washington Post would go crazy.” Of course, the closest Obama came to calling anything “un-American” was when he said the Republican “vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.” That’s not name-calling; that’s an accurate assessment and, from Obama at least, long overdue. Continue Reading

Paul Ryan Aims to Rebrand His Medicare Plan, But Nobody’s Buying It

After realizing his Medicare voucher plan was not sitting well with American voters, Representative Paul Ryan tried to re-brand his plan during a speech in Chicago earlier this week. By using phrases like “empowering Americans” and “guaranteed coverage options,” Ryan tried to conceal what’s at heart of his plan: increasing the power of private insurance companies to take advantage of seniors, a demographic not seen as profitable by the industry. The Nation’s John Nichols debunks this rhetoric and explains on The Ed Show that the American people are rejecting Ryan’s plan because Medicare is a widely popular and functional federal program. —Sara Jerving Continue Reading

Paul Ryan: The Man Who Wasn’t There

Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a campaign event at Partnership for Defense Innovation in Fayetteville, N.C., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Sara D. Davis)  That obscure object of pundit desire is, you may have guessed, Representative Paul Ryan. When Ryan released his first budget plan back in early 2010, mainstream media pundits struggled to find words sufficiently praiseworthy to do justice to the man’s courage, wisdom and good looks. At the New York Times, David Brooks wrote that Ryan’s plan “set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion.” Ryan “tackle[d] just about every politically risky issue with brio and guts,” Brooks gushed, and by “grasp[ing] reality with both hands,” he was “forcing everybody else to do the same.” Soon after, the Times op-ed page cheering squad signed up Joe Nocera and James Stewart, with the latter forced to imagine, somehow, that Ryan’s plan raised taxes on the rich. And at Slate, Jacob Weisberg was so bowled over by the beauty of Ryan’s “Good Plan!” that he pronounced it “brave, radical, and smart”—even as he felt compelled to admit that it would result in “negative effects…on future retirees, working families, and the poor” and was filled with “sleight-of-hand tricks” that ultimately made a mockery of Ryan’s deficit-reduction claims. Given these weaknesses, one can only wonder what these pundits found so compelling about the plan. Was it that it shifted the burden of Medicare to future seniors by turning the program into a voucher plan? Was it that it lifted the tax burden from the extremely wealthy while significantly increasing the costs borne by the middle class? Was it the plan’s call for the complete elimination of taxes on capital gains and dividend income, such that even Mitt Romney admitted it Continue Reading

Do the Kids Love Paul Ryan?

Springfield, Virginia—When I first stumbled across Kirsten Powers’s column on the Daily Beast arguing that Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) appeals to young people, it struck me as an obviously ridiculous notion. But she had numbers from a poll—which admittedly could just be an outlier—to back it up. “A Zogby/JZ Analytics poll Tuesday showed increased support among voters 18–29 for the Romney ticket, which pollster John Zogby attributed to the Ryan pick,” writes Powers. “President Obama received just 49 percent of the youth vote, versus Romney’s 41 percent. (Obama took home 66 percent of the youth vote against McCain in 2008.)” So, is it possible that Ryan will actually eat into President Obama’s margins among his strongest age demographic? Going to a Paul Ryan rally hardly bears out the notion. Ryan spoke Friday afternoon at a high school auditorium in this suburb of Washington, DC, to a crowd that was every bit as old, if a bit more boisterous, as at the typical Romney campaign stop. Notwithstanding all the young volunteers selling T-shirts and signing up voters in the oppressive heat outside, the crowd indoors was mostly gray-haired or bald. The typical young person was a small child, brought here by her grandparents, trying to amuse herself. Some of the few young adults in attendance said they are not even Romney-Ryan supporters, merely interested spectators. And in terms of diversity—the trademark of the Millennial generation—well, there was almost none. The crowd appeared more than 99 percent white, even though surrounding Fairfax County is 32 percent non-white. (In the rafters behind the speakers, set up for the benefit of the TV cameras and featuring a carefully selected crowd, I counted more African-Americans, three, than in the much larger audience standing in front.) Republicans certainly seem to think Ryan may help them combat their well-deserved image as a geriatric Continue Reading

Paul Ryan Proposes a Return to George W. Bush’s Foreign Policy

On Wednesday I wrote about how Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), does not adhere to his supposed limited government principles when it comes to civil liberties and social issues. But there is another major policy area in which Ryan is a doctrinaire Republican rather than a libertarian: foreign policy and national security. Ryan is a full supporter of interventionist, imperialist foreign policies and the national security state’s encroachments on individual liberty. Ryan subscribes to extreme, cruel-hearted economic theories, but he is no Ron Paul Republican. Neoconservatives are rejoicing over his selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Neocon weathervane William Kristol of The Weekly Standard wrote that Ryan’s selection reminded him of John F. Kennedy’s famous inspirational inaugural address. His colleagues at The Weekly Standard have lavished slobbering coverage on Ryan, calling him “the ideal running mate,” and fawning over his “electric campaign appearences [sic].” They’ve even praised his ability to catch a baseball and earnestly reported that the current president of his former college fraternity says they are “good guys, fun guys.” Ryan is a hawk’s hawk. As Eli Lake reports on The Daily Beast, “The selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s choice for vice president tilts the ticket closer to the neoconservatives on key questions about America’s role in the world and the size of the military. In recent months, Ryan has been receiving briefings from Elliott Abrams, George W. Bush’s former Middle East director at the National Security Council, and Fred Kagan, one of the architects of the military surges in Iraq and Afghanistan.” It should come as no surprise that Ryan would turn to the war-mongers behind Bush’s foreign policy. As Daniel Larison demonstrates in The Week, Ryan’s views are basically identical to Bush’s: he supported the Iraq War Continue Reading

Paul Ryan’s False Premise

There are plenty of valid criticisms being leveled at Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan’s draconian budget proposals: they cruelly cut aid to the needy to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, they steal from the young to shore up Republican support among the elderly. But one of the most essential points has largely gone unnoticed: that his whole agenda is based on a false premise. Ryan, like many Tea Party heroes, such as Representative Ron Paul of Texas, is obsessed with the idea, repeatedly discredited by recent history, that our short-term deficits will cause inflation and interest rate spikes. This idea is widely shared among Republicans. Fear of inflation and higher interest rates are the reason offered by Republicans for opposing economic and monetary stimulus. That theory’s prevalence, at a time of such high unemployment and low borrowing costs, is sabotaging our economy. Ryan and company keep trying to unnerve Americans with claims that deficit spending will cause us to lose our ability to borrow cheaply and send us into a downward spiral like the one engulfing Greece. The idea that deficit reduction, rather than boosting employment, should be our current top priority, is based on this assertion. “When you take a look at the problems our country is facing, debt is number one,” said Ryan on May 26, 2011. “The math is downright scary and the credit markets aren’t going to keep on giving us cheap rates,” he predicted. How has that prediction fared? On May 26, 2011, the ten-year Treasury rate was 3.05 percent. On August 10, 2012, it was 1.65 percent. You might expect that after seeing he was wrong, Ryan has adjusted his priorities accordingly. After all, he is a “wonk,” right? But no. Ryan is an ideologue, and he is therefore impervious to evidence. It’s the same story with inflation. On May 1, 2008, Ryan introduced a bill into Congress that would direct the Federal Reserve to focus only on restraining Continue Reading

How Paul Ryan’s Budget Paves the Way for Another Financial Crisis

Representative Paul Ryan released his budget blueprint this week, and fans of his work were no doubt pleased: it called for $5 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, focused heavily on domestic, non-military spending. Safety net programs like Medicaid and food stamps would face savage cuts, and the Affordable Health Care Act would be repealed entirely. Meanwhile, both corporate and individual tax rates would be lowered. It is easy to make the case that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer under Ryan’s so-called “Path to Prosperity” plan: one needs only to look at the literally trillions cut from Medicaid and food stamps while the rich pay much less in taxes. But it’s important to refine that point and note that the financial sector in particular gets many special favors in the Ryan plan. After all, it is one of Ryan’s leading benefactors and he can even be spotted sipping $350 bottles of wine with industry leaders from time to time. And his budget is no doubt a path to prosperity for them. Moreover, in three crucial ways Ryan’s budget not only gives Wall Street more leeway to act recklessly, but makes it more likely that average Americans face the consequences. Cutting the Securities and Exchange Commission budget: Already, the head of the SEC is complaining that her agency’s budget is not nearly adequate to police the country’s massive financial sector. In a speech earlier this year at SEC headquarters, director Mary Jo White said, “our funding falls significantly short of the level we need to fulfill our mission to investors, companies and the markets.” The SEC has only 4,200 employees, but must regulate eighteen different stock exchanges and over 25,000 different market participants—and the agency’s responsibilities are growing thanks to new mandates from the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. Ryan has a much different take in his budget: he thinks the SEC is just Continue Reading

Paul Ryan Doesn’t Follow Ayn Rand on Civil Liberties

Throughout his career Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has proudly touted the influence of philosopher Ayn Rand on his political beliefs. Rand’s most devoted followers are returning the favor. “I think the announcement is great news,” Aaron Day, the CEO of the Atlas Society, an organization dedicated to promoting Rand’s Objectivist philosophy, told POLITICO in an email. “The influence of Rand on Ryan as it relates to the role and nature of government is a huge step forward for the liberty movement. Ryan highlighted the principles of liberty, freedom, free enterprise, and self-determination (all consistent with Ayn Rand’s philosophy).” This, alas, is false. It is true that Ryan, like his mentor Jack Kemp, subscribes to Rand’s heartless belief in refusing to aid the less fortunate. But Ryan does not share any of Rand’s commitments to freedom, other than the freedom to be selfish. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a report on the Republican vice-presidential contenders. Ryan’s record is just as bad as the others’, and his running mate’s. Writing in the Huffington Post, ACLU president Anthony Romero observed, “There’s no constitutional daylight between Ryan’s civil liberties positions and Romney’s and that means a pall of darkness over our Constitution and the rights it guarantees.” Here are some examples: -§ Immigration: Libertarians believe in open borders, but Paul Ryan doesn’t. Ryan opposes the DREAM Act and he voted in favor of building a fence along the US border with Mexico. -§ Gay rights: Ryan has voted in favor of amending the US Constitution to ban gay marriage. He supported banning gay marriage in Wisconsin and opposed letting gay soldiers serve openly in the military. It is impossible to support individual freedom and limited government while trying to amend the Constitution to take away the rights of consenting Continue Reading

GOPers hail Romney’s VP pick Paul Ryan as ‘great choice,’ while Dems says he’s ‘doubling down’ on failed policies

Democrats and Republicans wasted no time reacting to Mitt Romney's selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. "This election is about values, and today Romney doubled down on his commitment to take our country back to the failed policies of the past," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wrote in an email to supporters Saturday. "Romney makes very clear he would return to policies that exploded the deficit & crashed the economy," tweeted Team Obama press secretary Ben LaBolt. SHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS Congressman Paul Ryan, with his daughter Liza behind him, walks with Mitt Romney to his campaign bus after Ryan was introduced today as the GOP vice presidential running mate during a campaign event at the battleship USS Wisconsin. "If it's really Ryan, Romney will have picked one of the only people who could have had an impact in the race. But, not the way he wants," Bill Burton, co-founder of pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA, tweeted. "By picking Representative Paul Ryan, Governor Romney has doubled down on his commitment to gut Social Security and end Medicare as we know it," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reportedly said in a statement. For their part, several of Romney's former rivals for the GOP presidential nomination hailed the decision. "Gov. Romney has made a great VP pick," tweeted former Sen. Rick Santorum. "Fiscal sanity is back! Looking forward to helping the Romney-Ryan ticket win in Nov!" "Paul Ryan is the largest step the GOP has taken towards solving the USA’s problems since Reagan and Kemp," Newt Gingrich tweeted. "Paul Ryan, conservative budget hawk..excellent choice who will underscore MR commitment to downsize Washington and restore job creation," tweeted Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Amanda Lucier/AP Mitt Romney, left, introduces his vice presidential running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, on Saturday. Other Republicans bigwigs also praised the pick. "Great choice by @MittRomney to Continue Reading