Tag Archives: Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan Won’t Talk Specifics

I was driving this morning and listening to the Larry Kudlow show on WABC.  I do not share Larry’s unmatched enthusiasm for supply side policies, but if you are interested in the economy, his discussions are informative, and it helps me understand the arguments on both sides of the debate over our national debt, deficits and monetary policy.  Today, he played an interview with Paul Ryan that I found revealing.  Larry appreciates Congressman Ryan’s supply side pedigree, but he also understands that you can’t just endorse a plan for solving the economic woes of our country without getting specific as to how you would achieve tax cuts for wealthy Americans without raising income taxes on the middle class.  A Wall Street Journal editorial by Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s former President of the Council of Economic Advisers, drove this point home this week.  Citing a report I mentioned in an earlier blog post, Mr. Goolsbee notes that if Ryan and Romney follow through on their budget plan, the lost revenue from tax cuts benefitting the wealthiest Americans “exceeds the value of all the relevant deductions and exemptions in the tax code combined—charitable giving, mortgage interest, state and local taxes, health insurance not counting as taxable income, etc. So to keep the deficit from increasing, middle-class tax increases are inevitable.” Economists on the left claim Romney’s plan would “could impose a trillion-dollar tax increase on the middle class while still managing to increase the deficit by an additional $2 trillion.”

Larry Kudlow sees the soft underbelly of Ryan’s plan, recognizing that you can’t tout a budget plan without explaining what steps you plan to take to achieve the outcomes you claim. In his interview with Ryan, Kudlow gently prods Paul Ryan, referencing the Goolsbee article (implicitly acknowledging its credibility) and asks him to be specific. Citing the $4M shortfall created by the Romney plan, Larry tries to pry some specifics from Ryan. Check out his efforts here. At minute 9:55, 12:45 and 14:22, Kudlow seeks specifics. By the end, with no specifics from Ryan, he simply seeks estimates of the spending cuts that would be necessary, $700B, $800B, $1T? Like the Apostle Peter, Paul Ryan has three chances to own up to the details of his budget plan, and three times he bobs and weaves. When Larry asks him for the third time, Ryan says these details will be the subject of a “long debate” with Congress.

In essence, Paul Ryan has no plan and is asking that we trust him. He assumes, perhaps correctly, that people’s eyes glaze over when it comes to these details, and he will get a pass as long as he keeps tossing out phrases like “pro growth” and “get people back to work”. I welcome someone to post or explain to me how his plan will achieve the tax cuts he proposes, protect Defense spending and balance the budget. Not possible. From what I have seen so far, he is no guru or economic savior. He speaks well, uses all the right supply side lingo, but when pressed, refuses to get specific. I will vote for anyone, regardless of Party, who acknowledges the fiscal problems we face, speaks honestly on the sacrifice necessary to fix it, and asks those who have benefitted the most from our “free markets” to give up their low tax rates, forswear offshore tax shelters and accept means testing of governmental benefits. Instead, I expect what we will see is hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into Republican superpacs in an effort to protect the vast wealth migration that our lobbyist-induced tax code has enabled a sliver of our citizens to accomplish over the last 20 years.

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Ryan Deserves Your Scrutiny

I did not know much about Congressman Paul Ryan when Mitt Romney announced his choice for Vice President.  I had seen him doing one of those Republican responses to the President’s State of the Union, or some such speech.  From what I saw, he spoke well, looked young and fit, and did not produce in me any immediate, negative reaction.  He seemed a little unemotional, but, as a Catholic, I felt a certain affinity to  this young, energetic guy with the Irish name.  In my mind, how bad could he be?

Once I heard he was the choice for VP, I figured I better do my homework on Paul Ryan.  I read a good article in the New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/08/06/120806fa_fact_lizza), written just days prior to Saturday’s announcement.  I looked at information on his web page about his budget proposal.  I read articles on the webpage for the Tax Policy Center (http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/).  In searching these documents, I did so concerned that Mr. Ryan may harbor some of the same illusions as his  running mate about how easy it is for poor people to rise above their worsening economic circumstances.  I have written previously on my belief that Mr. Romney’s comments abroad suggested a lack of perspective when it came to the socio-economic forces standing in the way of upward mobility for many Americans.  Was Mr. Ryan another Social Darwinist using his personal life experience as a yardstick for measuring the upward mobility of his fellow Americans?

The answer seems to be a hardened “yes”.  In reaching that conclusion, I believe Mr. Ryan is probably a good man who believes fervently in the views he espouses so energetically.  But his record is unmistakable and deserves your scrutiny.  His current proposal radically cuts funding to Medicaid by making Medicaid a block grant program.  He proposes massive tax cuts with few details on where much of the money will come from to offset these cuts. His plans for a two-tiered personal income tax system with rates of 10% and 25% would drastically reduce revenue, but he refuses to consider higher rates for the wealthiest Americans.  This ensures that millions of poor and middle class voters will pick up the slack.  His plan for Medicare ventures raises serious questions about whether those vouchers will keep pace with rising health care costs.  Make no mistake, his policies and proposals reflect choices.  He believes that saving money for rich people and their businesses beats providing the most basic aid to poor people.  There is no other explanation for these policies.  What makes them especially abhorrent is that Mr. Ryan has no personal life experience that would justify the extraordinary degree of certainty he brings to policy positions that work such harsh consequences on the most vulnerable in our society. Even the Catholic Bishops take issue with the morality of his budget choices.

I also have yet to see justification for the claim that he is the “detail” man for the Republicans on budget issues.  In searching these documents, I see a massive tax cut with lots of gaps on how these cuts will be funded.  I also see gaps in Mr. Ryan’s perspective.  Like his running mate, he has never had to wonder whether his family will be safe financially.  He has not had to consider life without health insurance or walking to work in a crime-ridden neighborhood.  I don’t think his safety net has every been in real jeopardy.  From what I can tell, he has not held a job in the private sector since high school.  And while you could say the same thing about me on many of these points, the difference is that I know it.  What makes these guys scary is that they believe their own success justifies policies that rely upon a creed that says the path to success for all Americans can follow a route similar to theirs.  When it comes to making decisions on how the most vulnerable in our society will be treated, I think I will cast my lot with the guy whose character was forged in more challenging circumstances and whose perspective casts a pessimistic eye on the idea that investing in our richest citizens will somehow benefit the least of us.


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