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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Paul Ryan's Nasty Ideas

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You might not know it from the local press, but much of the national media doesn't consider Gov. Scott Walker the most controversial, extremist politician from Wisconsin. That distinction belongs to Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee.

For two weeks now, financial experts all over the country have examined Ryan's alleged "Path to Prosperity," which the congressman claims is absolutely necessary to reduce an unsustainable federal deficit and prevent the bankruptcy of the United States.

Instead, people who know economics have found Ryan's budget plan—passed quickly by House Republicans without even thinking, which is the only way it could—to be a "ridiculous," "heartless," "ludicrous," "sick joke" "repeal of the 20th century."

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says Ryan's plan not only fails to reduce the federal deficit, but over 10 years it actually increases the federal debt by more than $8 trillion.

That is not because Ryan's radical plan doesn't include massive cuts in federal spending. It does. Overwhelmingly, those enormous spending cuts devastate programs providing for the health care of seniors, the poor and the disabled.

But instead of using those unprecedented budget cuts to lower deficits, Ryan's bait and switch would redirect trillions into additional tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

That's why President Barack Obama strongly attacked Ryan's cruel plan not simply as a dismantling of social programs for the people in need that Republicans always target, but a dismantling of America.

"We believe, in the words of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves," Obama said.

The president said America was a better country because of its commitments to Social Security and Medicare for seniors and Medicaid and unemployment insurance for the poor and the jobless. "I'll go further," Obama added. "We would not be a great country without those commitments."

Ryan Aims to Destroy Medicare

The centerpiece of Ryan's budget cuts is to destroy Medicare providing health care for seniors.

That's pretty audacious considering Republicans tried to use Obama's elimination of wasteful government subsidies for Medicare Advantage as a way to turn seniors against health care reform. Republicans wept great, big alligator tears for the president cutting out government waste within Medicare as a terrible threat to the welfare of our beloved seniors.

Now Ryan and Republicans can't wait to completely destroy Medicare, killing the most popular and successful health insurance coverage for seniors in U.S. history.

One of the biggest chuckles during the debate over health care reform came when some seniors, misled by the Republicans' dishonest attacks, turned out in public waving signs saying: "Keep Government's Hands Off My Medicare."

Medicare is 100% a government program, signed into law by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. For nearly half a century it has proven to be one of the most successful government programs of all time.

There is a reason why Republicans have opposed Medicare from its inception and why Ryan and present-day Republicans have a special incentive to try to destroy it: Medicare works.

The tremendous success and popularity of Medicare exposes the lie of Republican claims that government bureaucracy is incapable of managing anything as well as private industry.

Medicare isn't just the public option, to use the vocabulary of the health care reform debate. Medicare is the single-payer health care system that progressive reformers have always favored to provide universal health care in the United States as it does in other industrialized countries.

The single payer is the government. The reason why the system works so well is because there are no profit-making middlemen—private insurance companies—raking off enormous profits.

Extremely low government overhead allows 98% of Medicare funds to go directly into health care for seniors.

So guess what Ryan would replace Medicare with—a voucher system ending single-payer health care and giving seniors vouchers that would buy less and less every year to try to purchase private insurance from one of those profit-making insurance companies.

Each year vouchers for seniors would rise no more than the rate of inflation while the cost of private insurance goes up two or three times that amount. The CBO estimates that by 2030 seniors would be paying two-thirds of the cost of their own medical care, compared to 25% under traditional Medicare.

This enormous cost shift onto the backs of seniors does nothing to reduce the deficit, however. It simply provides bigger tax cuts to millionaires.

It's long past time for the fawning local media to quit admiring Ryan's baby blues and describing him as some kind of intellectual budget expert bursting with bold, new ideas.

Ryan's ideas are neither bold nor new. They're some of the Republican Party's oldest and nastiest ideas.

They're particularly vicious and dishonest coming from a young congressman faking wide-eyed innocence and "gee whiz" Boy Scout sincerity.