Leave it to Congressional Republicans to turn an important legislative function into yet another political fan for the flames of partisan discord.
Deficit hawk and leading proponent of taking retired peoples' medicine away Paul Ryan (R-WI) has released a new "budget" to the press.
The latest Ryan budget blueprint has been billed as a response to President Obama's recent budget proposal; in reality it's anything but. The term "response" suggests some kind of thoughtful analysis or good faith, both of which the Ryan proposal sorely lacks. The document is big on sweeping generalizations and light on actual details. Rife with deep, domestic spending cuts but lacking anything resembling a reasonable military budget.
Even if half the measures in this plan were intended to reach the president's desk, they would undoubtedly meet with the business end of a big, red veto pen. But it's not even the half-baked policy proposals festering within that make this ploy so despicable. It's the fact that nobody, not even Paul Ryan, expects this document to change anything in Washington. Even the most cursory examination of the new Ryan budget reveals the Republican ruse. Congressional Republicans are so determined to turn the federal budget into a political football that they have reduced this important document to a campaign flier.
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What do you expect from the party that publicly identified its number one priority as defeating the President of the United States? Not job creation. Not the War on Terror. Since 2008 the only plank in the GOP platform has been to get the black guy out of the White House.
This latest proposal is deeply rooted in that partisan mentality. At the risk of treating this farce as if it were a legitimate effort at policy making, let's examine the House GOP's 2013 budget blueprint by the numbers.
Ryan's $3.53 trillion plan reduces individual tax rates and brackets. This sort of accounting sleight-of-hand is often billed by conservatives as "across the board" tax cuts, but this contention bears no relation to reality. If Ryan's tax plan were to become law, the wealthiest Americans would see their tax rate drop from 35% to 25% while lower middle class Americans would see their rate remain stagnant at 10%.
If you're wondering how these fiscal conservatives plan to trim the deficit by slashing revenues, you're not alone.
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Ryan and his cohorts claim that they make up for the lost revenue from their backward tax plan by closing tax loopholes and deductions. Which ones exactly, they won't reveal, probably because this claim is either pure fiction or politically disadvantageous. Remember, the purpose of this proposal is to get Republicans elected, not to influence fiscal policy in the slightest.
Rehashing the least popular idea from Ryan's 2012 budgetary attempt, he functionally demolishes both Medicare and Medicaid. The new proposal offers seniors a choice between staying in the traditional plan or choosing a Medicare-approved private plan. While this might sound like it could lead to greater autonomy, the reality is that Medicare only works because it isn't optional. If younger workers could opt out of social security, the entire program would collapse. The same is true of Medicare. This is just another insidious attempt to destroy the social safety net.
Medicaid is even more transparently dispatched. Ryan's plan converts the entire program into a series of block grants for the states. By delegating that kind of authority to state legislators, this budget proposal guarantees that Red State America's swollen underclass will have little chance of receiving anything close to the kind of care they get under the current program.
Last but certainly not least, the new Ryan budget calls for $1.028 trillion dollars in domestic discretionary spending cuts and undoes the $55 billion cut in defense spending made by President Obama earlier this year.
So wave goodbye to AmeriCorps and the National Endowment for the Arts, but say hello to more irrelevant bases in the Balkans.
The suspciously vague proposal leaves out most of the details about these spending cuts, and therein lies the most offensive part of this whole charade.
This is not a serious proposal.
This document is little more than a list of Republican talking points. It's a place to point when congressmen, senators and presidential hopefuls are out on the stump preaching spending cuts, defense buildup and the dismantling of the welfare state. It also allows Republican candidates to fight back against charges of obstructionism, however accurate those charges might be.
That's why Paul Ryan and the entire House GOP delegation are a bunch of hyperpartisan hacks. While main street America faces real financial challenges, they would rather play poltiics with an important piece of fiscal policy.
Enjoy your single-digit approval rating, guys. Something tells me its going to be a nasty year for congressional incumbents.