Jonathan Chait on Paul Ryan:
The Legendary Paul Ryan: The basic elements of Ryan’s plan are this: The tax code would be collapsed into two rates, with the top rate dropping to 25 percent, but eliminating unspecified tax deductions would keep tax revenues at the current level, as set by the Bush tax cuts. Medicare would remain untouched for those 55 years old and older, but those under would be given vouchers at a capped rate. Given that the Medicare savings would not begin to take effect for more than a decade, that taxes would stay level (at best), and that military spending would increase, Ryan would achieve his short-term deficit reduction by focusing overwhelmingly on programs targeted to the poor (which account for about a fifth of the federal budget, but absorb 62 percent of Ryan’s cuts over the next decade). The budget repeals Obamacare, thereby uninsuring some 30 million Americans about to become insured. It would then take insurance away from another 14 to 27 million people, by cutting Medicaid and children’s health-insurance funding.
This is not a moderate plan. As Robert Greenstein, a liberal budget analyst, summed up the proposal, “It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history.” And yet, Ryan has managed to sell it as something admirable, and something else entirely: a deficit-reduction plan….
Whether Ryan’s plan even is a “deficit-reduction plan” is highly debatable. Ryan promises to eliminate trillions of dollars’ worth of tax deductions, but won’t identify which ones….
The persistent belief in the existence of an authentic, deficit hawk Ryan not only sweeps aside the ugly particulars of his agenda, it also ignores, well, pretty much everything he has done in his entire career, and pretty much everything he has said until about two years ago.
In 2005, Ryan spoke at a gathering of Ayn Rand enthusiasts, where he declared, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”… Ryan’s philosophical opposition to a government that forces the “makers” to subsidize the “takers”—terms he still employs—is foundational; the policy details are secondary.
Ryan has, retroactively, depicted himself as a dissenter from the fiscal profligacy of the Bush administration, and reporters have mostly accepted his account at face value…. In reality, Ryan was a staunch ally in Bush’s profligacy, dissenting only to urge Bush to jack up the deficit even more. “We noticed that the green-eyeshade, austerity wing of the party was afraid of class warfare,” Ryan said during Bush’s first term. “They fear increases in the debt, and they were overlooking issues of growth, opportunity, and free markets.” For those uninitiated in the tribal lingo of Beltway conservatives, this may sound like gibberish. But those inside the conservative subculture invest these buzzwords with deep meaning. “Green eyeshade” is a term of abuse appropriated by the supply-siders to describe Republicans who still cared more about deficit control than cutting taxes. “Growth” and “opportunity” mean tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the rich, and “class warfare” means any criticism thereof. Ryan’s centrist admirers hear his frequent confessions that both parties have failed as an ideological concession. What he means is that Republicans were insufficiently fanatical in their devotion to cutting taxes for the rich.
In 2001, Ryan led a coterie of conservatives who complained that George W. Bush’s $1.2 trillion tax cut was too small, and too focused on the middle class. In 2003, he lobbied Republicans to pass Bush’s deficit-financed prescription-drug benefit, which bestowed huge profits on the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. In 2005, when Bush campaigned to introduce private accounts into Social Security, Ryan fervently crusaded for the concept. He was the sponsor in the House of a bill to create new private accounts funded entirely by borrowing, with no benefit cuts. Ryan’s plan was so staggeringly profligate, entailing more than $2 trillion in new debt over the first decade alone, that even the Bush administration opposed it as “irresponsible.”…