Political Animal


March 20, 2012 11:58 AM Ryan Budget: Cui Bono?

By Ed Kilgore

Here’s Ezra Klein’s initial take on the new Paul Ryan budget blueprint. I think Ezra’s emphasizing exactly the right points in sorting through the mass of details and numbers:

Here’s the basic outline of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget in one sentence: Ryan’s budget funds trillions of dollars in tax cuts, defense spending and deficit reduction by cutting deeply into health-care programs and income supports for the poor.
At the end of his initial release, Ryan posts a table comparing his budget to the president’s budget. The single largest difference is in the tax section: Ryan raises $2 trillion less in revenue than the White House does. In the president’s budget, those revenues come mostly from increasing taxes on the wealthy. So that’s the first big gap between the two proposals: Under Ryan’s budget, revenue would be lower, and the distribution of taxes more regressive, than under Obama’s budget.
On the spending side, Ryan’s biggest cuts come from health-care programs. He eliminates the $1.5 trillion that the Affordable Care Act uses to purchase health insurance for 30 million Americans. Then he cuts Medicaid and related health programs by $770 billion — which is to say, by about a third. Medicare takes $200 billion in cuts on top of that….
It would be very interesting to see an estimate of the uninsured population under Ryan’s budget.
Ryan’s next significant source of cuts is so-called “other mandatory.” Compared to the president’s budget, Ryan cuts $1.8 trillion from this category. Some of that might simply be an accounting difference: The president’s budget proposes to move infrastructure spending from the “discretionary” side of the budget to the “mandatory” side. Ryan might be moving that back, which isn’t, in and of itself, a spending cut. But beyond that, the main programs in “other mandatory” are low-income supports like refundable tax credits for the poor and food stamps. Ryan is cutting these quite substantially.
On a first pass, then, it appears that Ryan is offering a large tax cut, leaving seniors mostly alone for the next 10 years, increasing defense spending and cutting spending on programs for the poor.

It’s important to look at Ryan’s proposal from the perspective of who benefits. Thanks to all of the attention paid last year to Ryan’s proposed structural changes in Medicare, it will be natural to focus on them again. But it’s entirely possible that between softening the blow to near-seniors by maintaining a traditional Medicare “option” and more aggressively marketing the proposal’s grandfathering feature (no changes, supposedly, will affect the Medicare benefits of anyone over 55), Ryan and his supporters will succeed in making the overall package much less threatening to seniors. There is no way, however, to make it less threatening to poorer or younger people—in other words, people more likely not to vote or to vote Democratic.

If so, then you might well conclude that Ryan did indeed listen to those nervous Republicans who told him his original budget concepts were politically unrealistic and perhaps diastrous, as too frontal an assault on the New Deal legacy—at a time when white seniors and near-seniors have become the electoral base of the GOP. So instead, he’s doubling down on the aspects of his blueprint that shred the safety net created during and since the Great Society, culminating in the effort to cover the uninsured by the Affordable Care Act.

Thus, if you want to know how Ryan’s proposal is likely to affect you without looking at a lot of charts or believing a lot of phony assurances, just ask yourself: are you part of a demographic or economic category that tends to vote Republican? You’ll probably do okay, and you’ll do much better the wealthier and/or the more dependent you are on robust defense spending. Otherwise, look out!

And part of the reason you’ll have to look out is that Ryan’s proposal provides a lot more austerity than is necessary to fund its tasty tax treats for the wealthy or to keep defense spending realtively high: that’s his big concession to the Tea Folk. As Ezra puts it:

Ryan’s budget ultimately poses two questions: First, whether this amount of deficit reduction is actually necessary. It’s more substantial, I believe, than what’s called for in Simpson-Bowles. And second, if you do consider this amount of deficit reduction necessary, whether the right way to achieve it is almost solely by cutting programs for the poor.

There you have it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is all about wrecking Medicare or Ryan’s ultimate intentions towards Social Security. That’s another election away.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • gregor on March 20, 2012 12:23 PM:

    Is it all talk and bluster from the Democratic side?

    David Corn's book suggests that the Democrats are willing to sacrifice the most cherished programs of the New Deal for some ephemeral sense of bipartisanship, comity, and civility.

  • TCinLA on March 20, 2012 12:25 PM:

    Even the Roman Emperors knew they had to keep the bread coming from Egypt if they were going to keep the legions out on the Danube and not have the mob come burn down the Palatine Hill. This ignorant piece of "intellectual" shit doesn't even know that.

    It's things like this that make me think "termination with extreme prejudice" needs to be put into operation with these guys.

  • Mimikatz on March 20, 2012 12:33 PM:

    Ryan Budget = The Hunger Games.

    The Ryan budget, and the GOP strategy/philosophy in general, so exalt the very rich and so disdain ordinary people, and so incite competition and winner-take-the-spoils that they sound like a sanitized version of The Hunger Games, a film from the book that has been a blockbuster among young adults and kids down to the 5th grade that opens Friday.

    For those who don't know the book (i1st in a trilogy) that is e beat-selling kindle book ever, it is a dystopian vision of a future in which the US is down to about 1/2 to 2/3 of it's present size due to seal level rise and other problems, and the population down by about 99%. The country is divided into 12 regions and a wealthy Capitol (a 13th district was destroyed after the Capitol took power). To emphasize their subjugation, every year each district chooses a boy and a girl by lot to compete in the Hunger Games, a spectacle to the death in a vast open-air arena that is televised and mandatory viewing all over the country. The survivor is assured of an easy life and lots of food for their district. The rich in the Capitol place bets on the contestants. The heroine is a 16-year-old girl, a crack hunter from district 12 (Appalachia), who volunteers when her 12-year-old sister is unexpectedly chosen.

    The contrast with Harry Potter could not be more striking, in the dystopian vision, the sense that the kids are basically on their own without adult guidance and in fact are the providers, and the grittiness of the competition, plus the fact that the hero is a very resourceful girl who uses her smarts and skills to defeat much richer, stronger and more well-fed competition. In light of both the political trends and the sociological trends we have been discussing for days, the film, which comes out Friday and will reach non-readers as well as fans, is the perfect metaphor for the GOP vision.

    I just hope it motivates enough of the under 55 to get to the polls and put a stake in the heart of the GOP.

  • stevio on March 20, 2012 12:44 PM:

    Why does Ryan hate the troops so?

  • Ron Byers on March 20, 2012 12:44 PM:

    I guess Ryan is basically a Mexican politician. Mexico reflects the dog eat dog world he envisions.

    Nah, Mexico is too much of a welfare state. On second thought Ryan wants to turn America into a North American Somalia.

    Why isn't Ryan being run out of office? Is his district really that safe? Really?

  • KenZ on March 20, 2012 12:46 PM:

    Remember that for the GOP, regressive taxation is a feature not a bug.

  • T2 on March 20, 2012 12:52 PM:

    Klein: "Ryan’s budget funds trillions of dollars in tax cuts, defense spending and deficit reduction by cutting deeply into health-care programs and income supports for the poor."
    Isn't this exactly what the Republican Party ALWAYS wants to do. There's nothing new here-it is the same crap the GOP has been trying to shove down our throats for decades.

  • mad_nVT on March 20, 2012 12:54 PM:

    Kilgore: "are you part of a demographic or economic category that tends to vote Republican? You’ll probably do okay,"

    What about all of the poorer, less-educated white folks that continue to vote Republican?

    They will not do well under the GOP budget.

  • Rich on March 20, 2012 1:07 PM:

    Ezra is turning into an idiot. It's obvious this is just the usual giveaway to the rich.

  • martin on March 20, 2012 1:09 PM:

    It's not the Ryan Budget Blueprint, it is the Republican Class Warfare Operations Manual.

  • internet tough guy on March 20, 2012 1:12 PM:

    Needs more generational warfare.

  • nerd on March 20, 2012 1:21 PM:

    I simply don't understand why those who yell "Patriotism" the loudest are the ones that are most eager to shortchange their nation and their fellow Americans.

  • T-Rex on March 20, 2012 1:25 PM:

    Yes, ask yourself "Am I a member of a demographic group that normally votes Republican?" and if the answer is no, expect some form of obstruction between you and the polling place next fall. It may be a physical obstruction, like a police road block, a bureaucratic one, like the possibility that your name has mysteriously vanished from the voting roles, or psychological, in the form of too few polling places, too few voting machines and interminable lines. But you'd better expect it.

  • stormskies on March 20, 2012 1:31 PM:

    What about all of the poorer, less-educated white folks that continue to vote Republican?

    They will not do well under the GOP budget.


    The sad truth about this is that those Repiglicans have psychologically invested themselves into the delusional beliefs that they need in order to feel victimized. In turn this creates a need for 'scapegoats' that are necessary and used as a way of deflecting taking any responsibility in their own actions. Their need to sustain these delusional beliefs trumps the actual reality wherein the nature of the Repiglican polices is against their own self interest, including economic.

    This is the real testimony to just how utterly stupid, bordering on cretinism, that these people actually are. These are the ones who elect the likes of Ryan in the first place.

  • Joe Friday on March 20, 2012 1:32 PM:

    The only truth Ryan spoke today was his statement that these massive federal budget deficits were entirely predictable. Many predicted exactly that when the numerous rounds of tax cuts which overwhelmingly benefited the Rich & Corporate were enacted early in the previous administration.

    Of course, that isn't the implication Ryan intended, but it was nevertheless the truth.

  • stormskies on March 20, 2012 1:34 PM:

    exhibit a from c & l

    March 20, 2012 09:00 AM
    Fox News Lies; An Elderly Woman Dies

    By karoli

    When I first saw this image on Facebook, I wasn't sure how on earth Fox News could have killed someone's mother. And then I read the message that went with the photo. Tracy Knauss posted it on his Facebook page along with a message which said in part:

    I know this personally. FOX News killed my precious mother, Hallie. She watched FOX religiously. And when she fell ten days before she died, she refused to go to the doctor because, "I don't want Obamacare to get all of my information! she declared, recalling the warnings from FOX News "anchors." She was emphatic. She was not going to consort with the muslim enemy. As she made out her will she told her lawyer, "I don't want any of my money going to the Muslim Brotherhood!" And her last protestation dealt with "Obama's death panels." Mother died just days later. I hold FOX News responsible for my mother's death.

    Hallie Jean Mayes Knauss Culpepper passed away on February 16, 2012. Ten days earlier, she had fallen, but as Knauss says, refused to see a doctor. Her obituary notes that she was a "lifelong, dyed-in-the-wool Republican" who at one time had also been a business owner (TECO Products, now Griffin Products).

    And it seems, she got her news from Fox. It's not hard to understand where she got the idea that "Obamacare" had death panels. Just three days before Mrs. Culpepper's death, they were still calling them death panels. Republicans have been working hard (with the cooperation of some turncoat Democrats) to repeal that board, which is really the last best hope we have for keeping Medicare out of the crosshairs of budget hawks.

    The death panel lie has been around since the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act in 2009, when Liberty Council first started circulating emails to seniors and Sarah Palin amplified it. Then we had the Fox News Parade of Idiots saying it over and over again, along with the usual complement of birthers. Is there any doubt in anyone's mind that a lifelong Republican who entered the age of television with the Fairness Doctrine where fair coverage and truth telling was part of the mix, would believe what Fox told her?

    Credit: Tracy Knauss
    Don't write this woman off as some ignorant back-country hick. She clearly wasn't. She owned a company at one time. She paid attention to events and politics in the news, or at least, in the news as she understood it. She, like most of her neighbors, voted Republican. But until Fox News came along, Republicans weren't stupid. They had different philosophies about government and its role, but they weren't blatantly invested in advancing a lie-based ideology until Fox News came along.

    It isn't hyperbole to say Fox News killed her. She fell and feared the doctor would kill her. That fear can be laid at the feet of Roger Ailes and his obsession with advancing lies to promote his agenda. When are they going to be held accountable for this?

  • exlibra on March 20, 2012 1:35 PM:

    [...] just ask yourself: are you part of a demographic or economic category that tends to vote Republican? You’ll probably do okay,[...] -- Ed Kilgore

    I'm in southwestern, mostly rural, part of Virginia. Most of the people here who use food stamps, come to the Free Clinic for their healthcare, etc vote Republican. And most of them are white, well-tattooed and pierced, sporting what our dentists call "meth teeth", while bitching out loud about the blacks stealing their hard-earned money to support their loafing lifestyle.

  • Len Smith on March 20, 2012 2:53 PM:

    This is a good cop - bad cop routine. The Obama administration and the Republicans want to implement the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction program. This is all a ruse to make Bowles Simpson seem reasonable by comparison.

  • Dredd on March 20, 2012 3:02 PM:

    "Ryan" is a word composed of letters from Ayn Rand.

    So is his ideology and prosperity gospel religion.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on March 20, 2012 3:28 PM:

    @Mimikatz re: The Hunger Games:

    Yet another children's book the GOP can decry as anti-capitalistic propoganda the left is using to brainwash the young. Look out for the cockamaney press release from a GOP yahoo to coincide with movie's release.