By George E. Curry
After studying the records of vice presidential candidates for more than a century, Nate Silver wrote in Saturdayâ€™s New York Times that Paul Ryan, the person Mitt Romney selected to be his vice presidential running mate, is â€śas conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann, the controversial congresswoman of Minnesotaâ€¦ Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900. He is also more conservative than any Democratic nominee was liberal, meaning that he is the furthest from the center.â€ť
As chairman of the House Budget Committee, the Wisconsin Republican has served as the chief architect of the GOPâ€™s budget priorities. Detailed analysis of Ryanâ€™s budget plan show him to be what Jesse Jackson often called on the presidential campaign trail in 1984: a â€śReverse Robin Hoodâ€ť â€“ one who likes to take from the poor to give to the rich.
Thatâ€™s exactly the point documented by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: â€śâ€¦These regressive new tax cuts would come on top of the Bush tax cuts, which also were costly and provided disproportionate gains to the highest-income households. Combined, the Bush and Ryan tax cuts would provide an annual windfall of nearly $400,000 apiece, on average, to people with incomes over $1 million.â€ť
It added, â€śBy combining large budget cuts (and tax increases) that disproportionately harm lower-income Americans with big tax cuts that disproportionately help those at the top of the income scale, the Ryan budget would significantly worsen inequality and increase poverty and hardship (and reduce opportunity as well, through deep cuts in programs such as Pell Grants to help low-income students afford college).â€ť
Even William Gale, who served as a senior staff economist for the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush, agrees.
â€śAt a time when our country faces a daunting fiscal challenge, Ryan asks nothing of the wealthiest Americans. His budget proposal would simultaneously cut tax rates for the rich and corporations while slashing programs for the poor and elderly: he would shift many federal low-income assistance programs to state governments and would transform Medicare into a premium support system that will shift health care costs to seniors if health care inflation cannot be controlled,â€ť said Gale, now co-director of the Tax Policy Center.
A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of Ryanâ€™s 2013 budget plan found that it â€śwould get at least 62 percent of its $5.3 trillion in non-defense budget cuts over ten years (relative to a continuation of current policies) from programs that serve people of limited means.â€ť
It explained, â€śRyanâ€™s cuts from programs benefiting low-income earners include â€ś$2.4 trillion in reductions from Medicaid and other health care for people with low or moderate incomesâ€ť and â€ś$134 billion in cuts to SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.â€ť In addition, Ryan would cut at least $463 billion from â€śmandatory programs serving low-income Americans (other than Medicaid and SNAP)â€ť and â€śat least $291 billion in cuts in low-income discretionary programs.â€ť
Like his running mate, Ryan favors repealing President Obamaâ€™s signature Affordable Care Act. And what he proposes as a cure for Americaâ€™s ailing health care system is worse than the illness.
â€śRyan budget would divide our health system into a distinct two tiers: those who could afford the care they need would get it; many others would not,â€ť said Edwin Park, vice president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Referring to Ryan, the former White House official said, â€śHe would convert Medicare into a voucher to buy private insurance or traditional Medicare, and cap Medicare financing for the vouchers at levels that wouldnâ€™t keep pace with health costs. By 2050, the Congressional Budget Office says, federal funding for a 67- year-old beneficiaryâ€™s health costs would be 35 percent to 42 percent lower than under current law. With vouchers growing more inadequate over time, beneficiaries would face much higher premiums and cost-sharing. Some would become uninsured; others would forgo care they couldnâ€™t afford.â€ť
And the problem with Medicare and Medicaid would not stop there under Ryanâ€™s plan.
â€śHe would turn Medicaid into a block grant program and give states less financing each year,â€ť Park said. â€śStates would get one-third less by 2022, which led the C.B.O. to conclude that unless states spent substantially more of their own money on Medicaid, theyâ€™d have to make substantial cuts to eligibility, benefits and/or provider payments.
When Ryan proposed a similar system last year, the Urban Institute estimated states would cut 14 million to 27 million beneficiaries by 2021.â€ť
In an effort to shore up his conservative base, Mitt Romney has selected a running mate clearly out of step with the American public.