Paul Ryan: Before and After

While bored at work today I came to the realization T.J. from the cartoon Recess makes a great Paul Ryan ‘before’ picture. So obviously I had to create a before and after picture. 


Paul Ryan and The Tea Party: A Not So Serious Bunch

Remember this picture…

Yes, this is the infamous Tea Partier who vehemently proclaimed government, and its wasteful and inefficient ways, needs to stay out of Medicare. Obviously, the statement is laughable since Medicare is run by the government (not to mention run more efficiently than private insurance).

It should have been at this time we realized the Tea Party was not a serious party. We should have realized they were a party of false assumptions, far-right idealistic plans, and absurd platforms.

Sadly, this realization did not happen, and the Tea Party was not only given legitimacy, but they were actually given positions of power. Now we have an extreme sect of the Republican Party that has no business being in Washington.

I disagree with Republicans, but I believe they create a nice balance with Democrats. The Tea Party on the other hand, has paralyzed Washington with an unrealistic, fantastical and detrimental set of demands.

They say they’re fiscally responsible, but to put it bluntly – they have no idea what they’re talking about. Part of their platform is to eliminate the national debt. First, our founders believed the country should have a national debt. Second,  Andrew Jackson actually paid off the national debt once before and it sent the country into a recession. Finally, a report was done by the Clinton administration that said paying off the national debt would have detrimental effects on the economy, both globally and domestically. The study concluded the country should carry a national debt.

They say they’re Taxed Enough Already, but in reality taxes are historically low. And I’m not just referring to the income tax. The capital gains rate is lower than it’s been since the 1930’s. And the corporate tax rate is lower than it was during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. I’m pretty sure business was good then.

They say they’re patriots – doing the work of the founders. Well, clearly they didn’t get the founder’s message about the national debt. Furthermore, the Tea Party constantly associates themselves with evangelicals. (I actually went to a Tea Party meeting that opened with this prayer, and I quote “Thank the Lord for the Romney/Ryan ticket.” Who knew God was rooting for the Republicans in 2012.)  One would think a group of patriots would listen to Thomas Jefferson who declared there to be a “wall of separation between church and state.” 

They are a delusional party with policies that are simply out of touch with reality. I think the nation is coming to the realization the Tea Party is not a serious party, but rather a well funded group of far-right-talking-heads who have a loud voice – and nothing more.

This brings me to a recent quote about Medicare, “We’re going to restore this program, and we’ll get these bureaucrats out of the way.”

Translation: Keep government out of my Medicare.

Who said this? It was not a fringe Tea Party leader or Fox News pundit, no, it was vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan.

Just as this line should have hinted that the Tea Party was not a serious Party a couple of years ago, Paul Ryan saying it today should be a red flag. As much as the news and media wants Paul Ryan to be an intellectual conservative, he’s not.  He’s a lot like the Tea Party.

His plan is unrealistic and lacks necessary specifics like which loopholes he plans on closing in order to pay for his tax cuts. It’s not the plan of a fiscal  conservative. It’s a plan that sounds good to the base because it increases addresses the deficit and tackles entitlements. In reality, it does neither.

As Paul Ryan goes around promoting his agenda, remember, his plan is nothing more than idealistic ideas lacking any realistic backing. Just as the Tea Party is losing its influence, we the people need to stop giving Paul Ryan credibility.

Team Comeback Lacks Substance

The Beltway, along with media pundits from both sides welcomed the VP selection of Paul Ryan because they thought it was a signal that the Romney camp was prepared to shift their campaign to a more substantive one. Paul Ryan, known for his budget and economic vision, was thought to change the conversation from vicious attack ads to serious economic policy.

Well, that didn’t happen, and it’s not surprising. The reason: Contrary to what the media believes, Ryan is not a substantive guy. People think he has serious plans for the country, but in reality the only thing he has are vague claims that fire up the Republican base – “Smaller Government!” “Cut the debt!”  The only reason his plan has credibility in the Beltway is because those people are precisely the ones who gave him credibility in the first place. Paul Krugman lays out this argument  better than I can – here.

The people who believe Ryan really does add some substance to the debate are simply mistaken. Although he is viewed as a deficit hawk, his plan doesn’t balance the budget until 2040. And that’s assuming all his math works. By reducing the tax code to two brackets (25% and 10%) Ryan’s plan offers a huge tax break that is paid for by closing loopholes in the current tax code. As I have pointed out before, he has yet to mention what loopholes he plans on closing. So, it’s hard to take Ryan as a serious deficit hawk when his proposal gives no specifics as to how it’s going to reduce the deficit. Further, if history tells us anything, Ryan is not concerned about the debt or paying for tax cuts. He voted for 2 unfunded wars, he voted for the Bush tax cuts without paying for them, and voted to extend them again without any funding. So Ryan might have the perception of fiscally responsible, but there is little evidence to prove he actually is.

Ryan is a lot like his running mate, Mitt Romney. As we learn more about Romney’s plan, the plausibility of it seriously comes into question. Romney’s plan brings government spending down to 20 percent of GDP without touching Medicare or Social Security, as well as setting a floor on defense spending at 4 percent The only way this math works, as Ezra Klein pointed out, is to cut everything else by an average of 40 percent; meaning, “Medicaid, infrastructure, education, food safety, road safety, the postal service, basic research, foreign aid, housing subsidies, food stamps, the Census, Pell grants, the Patent and Trademark Office, the FDA” would all see substantial cuts. Romney neglects to mention this in his plan. Besides the fact his cuts are politically impossible, they would have devastating consequences for, well, everyone.

Both Romney and Ryan make big promises without the slightest mention as to how they plan to fulfill those promises. Both plans sound good to the base, but it’s entirely unclear whether Ryan and Romney can or even want to achieve them. These are not the plans from people with serious ideas about reducing deficits and shrinking government, but rather they are plans from people pandering to the extreme right of their base.

The Troubling Aspect of Romney’s VP Pick

When Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin got the nod as Romney’s running mate the question became what does he bring to the ticket? VP’s are chosen for various reasons. They can fill in the Presidential candidate’s weak spots like Cheney did for Bush. They can add a nice contrast to the Presidential candidate like Biden did for Obama.  They can excite the base like Palin did for McCain. So what does Ryan do for Romney?

Well, Ryan doesn’t help with the healthcare debate. Romney has always struggled on this issue because he was the original architect behind the idea for ‘Obamacare.’  This prompted Rick Santorum to say Romney “would be the worst Republican in the country to put up against Obama.” Adding Ryan to the ticket may distract from that particular point, but not the healthcare debate in general. Ryan wrote the plan that “would change Medicare as we know it.”  His plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system that on average would cost seniors $6,400 more a year has received criticism not only from the left, but from senior citizens’ groups as well. So Ryan may take some heat off Romney’s record in Massachusetts, but he replaces it with a new wave of attacks.

Ryan also doesn’t help with the perception that Romney only cares about the wealthy. Ryan may not be an east-cost millionaire with multiples homes, Swiss bank accounts, and a dressage horse, but his proposals sure seem to help people like that.  The Ryan plan, like Romney’s plan, is filled with huge tax cuts for the wealthy that are somehow paid for by closing (yet to be specified) loopholes. Realistically, the only way to pay for those tax cuts is to close loopholes that benefit the middle and lower class like the home mortgage interest deduction and the earned income tax credit. His budget also cuts Medicaid (even more than Medicare) and other programs geared toward helping the less affluent. Whether you agree or disagree with Ryan’s plan, it’s hard to argue he is someone who represents the middle-class.

Another problem Romney has is his inability to seem, for lack of a better term, human. He is awkward on stage and in interviews, and just does not seem comfortable as a politician.  Ryan should help a little with this, as he is a career politician. But in reality, Ryan is more of a policy wonk than an everyday guy. He’s a technocrat that is good at explaining his position. So he may make Romney seem relatively more personable, but in no way will it be a big factor in the election.

In a lot of respects Ryan does very little for Romney. But Ryan does one thing for Romney that should frighten everyone.

The one thing I believe Ryan does for Romney is he will without a doubt sure up a base that was once skeptical of Romney. That’s troubling.  Ending Medicare, slashing Medicaid, and drastically reducing the size and scope of government are all concerns of mine; however, I am more concerned that those problems will be amplified due to Ryan’s unabashed support from the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party.

By choosing Ryan, Romney strengthens a base that is increasingly moving further and further to the right. Ryan strengthens a base that puts ideology before facts, preconceived notions before reality, and flawed beliefs before the truth. He strengthens a base that has created such a huge divide in this country that moderates no longer exist and compromise is a dirty word. Ryan will sure up a base whose policies if actually implemented will change American society for the worse. The idea of a second chance will no longer be embedded in American culture, but rather become analogous with socialism and a society dependent on government. Ryan will sure up a base that wants to cut any and all government programs, restrict access to healthcare, and send the economy into a tailspin; all in the name of what they consider fiscal responsibility. He gives credence to a base that believes freedom itself stems from lowering the national debt – no matter what that cost is to the average American citizen.

The consequence of giving those ideals a national platform and a credible voice is frightening in an election, which could be heavily determined by base turnout.

Could the Ryan Plan Convert some Republicans to Democrats?

The WONKBLOG makes a curious observation about Paul Ryan’s new budget plan.  It points out, in many ways, the plan panders to those who tend to vote Republican. Most obviously he drastically cuts taxes for the wealthy, the heart of the Republican Party.  Now, let’s look at what cuts he makes in order to pay for those tax cuts.

We see he makes cuts to Medicare, but not nearly as much as he cuts Medicaid.  Not surprising because Medicare benefits the elderly, who tend to vote Republican, and Medicaid benefits the young and the poor, who tend to vote Democrat.

Second, he changes nothing with Social Security because everyone knows that is political suicide.  Even though Ryan continually says his plan is about making tough decisions, I guess it’s only tough decisions that won’t adversely affect his voter base.

Finally, we have everything else.  This includes, as you might guess, a lot of the programs on which poor people rely.  Things like food stamps, federal housing, and the earned-income tax credit will all be cut under Ryan’s plan.

The ‘everything else’ category would be lower if defense spending stayed constant, however; Ryan increases it by $200 billion. This just illustrates how many areas of our economy will be cut to make up for the lost revenue from his drastic tax cuts.

He cuts taxes for the wealthy and pays for it by cutting programs for the poor. Basically taking from those who do not vote for him and giving it to those who do.

Well sort of…

A portion of the plan does pander to the traditional Republican base: the rich, the elderly and those fed up with the welfare state.  But there is a large part of the Republican base who benefits from a lot of the programs Ryan plans to cut.  These are the people who curse government; yet welcome their government handouts each month.  They continue to vote Republican (and against their interest) because they don’t care about fiscal responsibility as much as they care about God and guns.  But I wonder if those checks stopped coming would they still cling to their values as the most important issue? I wonder if Republicans really got their way if it is possible there would  be a massive Republican to Democrat conversion?  It’s easy for those who vote for values to abhor the welfare state as long as they continue to get their checks, but maybe once the money stops flowing they will realize their interests lie on the other side of the political spectrum.

Ryan’s Sounds Good Plan

The new budget plan put out by Paul Ryan has all the usual suspects: lower taxes, spending cuts on programs on which middle and lower class people rely, and of course an increase in defense spending. Along with this are a slew of good-sounding policies, which are vague, unspecific and without factual backing – yet they are guaranteed to decrease the debt.

For example, Ryan proposes simplifying the tax code (sounds good) by creating only two income brackets. That being a 10 percent and a 25 percent tax bracket.  He does not give specifics as to when income will begin to be taxed at the higher rate. Even without specific information we know one thing: tax revenue will go down – not a good thing if we’re trying to pay down the debt.

So how does Ryan account for the lost revenue? Simple, he will close tax loopholes (sounds good).  Which ones? Well he doesn’t tell us, but he assures us it will account for the tax revenue lost from the decreased taxes.  However, if Ryan wants to maintain tax revenue at or around 18 or 19 percent of GDP, which he says he does, then enough loopholes will have to be closed in order to generate $6.2 trillion dollars over 10 years. Not an easy task. Without knowing which loopholes will be closed it’s difficult to say if the plan will actually lower deficits or if it is smoke and mirrors aimed at a Republican base who knows only one thing: tax cuts are the solution to any and all problems.

This is consistent with most of the plan.  Ryan makes a lot of claims that fire up the base but provides no actual details.  It’s difficult to take the plan serious when all we get is cut this program and lower these taxes and bam! just like that, a lower national debt.