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October 25, 2012 12:35 PM Heads We Win, Tails You Lose

By Ed Kilgore

I’ve already registered some initial thoughts about Paul Ryan’s “poverty speech” at Cleveland State yesterday. It’s not getting a lot of attention. Charles Pierce, not a big fan of the man he routinely calls the “zombie-eyed granny starver,” does give him credit for talking about a subject Democrats routinely ignore in their lust for middle-class voters. Jonathan Chait demolishes Ryan’s core argument that social mobility is inhibited by social safety net provisions.

But Chait makes a point in passing that illustrates the deceptive heads-we-win, tails-you-lose underbelly of Romney-Ryan budget policies and how they affect the poor and near-poor:

Medicaid offers health care for the very poor, along with nursing-home care and other special medical needs. It is possible that the availability of Medicaid could reduce a person’s incentive to earn more money, because at some point, they would earn enough to no longer qualify for Medicaid and then they’d lose their health insurance. But this would only hold true if we enact Ryan’s proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Otherwise, people will have access to health insurance at every income level.

This sort of Catch-22 is everywhere in the GOP agenda. Romney and Ryan (most recently in this latest speech) constantly tout work-based welfare reform while proposing to demolish virtually every program and policy that “makes work pay” for people coming off public assistance. States are given “flexibility” to “innovate” in Medicaid along with vast cuts in funding for federal-state programs (including Medicaid itself) that make anything other than wholesale reductions in benefits and eligibility all but impossible. GOPers make all sorts of magical claims about their ability—somehow, some way, some time—to boost private-sector employment, even as they guarantee the elimination of actual, existing public-sector jobs (which are somehow less “real” than the hypothetical jobs of the future). And all the cluck-clucking and crocodile tears over the plight of economically stressed families is accompanied by relentless efforts to ensure that workers have lower pay, fewer benefits, and less leverage than ever before.

To understand what a Romney-Ryan administration, particularly if working with a Republican Congress, would mean for lower-income Americans, you have to look not just at their proposals but how they interact. The combinations are often purely toxic.

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.

Comments

  • Old Granny on October 25, 2012 12:48 PM:

    I prefer to think of Paul Ryan as a cross between Rick Santorum and Lee Van Cleef

  • gregor on October 25, 2012 12:53 PM:

    as the cliche goes, it's a feature, not a bug: the plan is to starve the poor to save them while shedding crocodile tears.

    they are despicable human beings.

  • Robert from upstate on October 25, 2012 12:54 PM:

    "To understand what a Romney-Ryan administration, particularly if working with a Republican Congress, would mean for lower-income Americans, you have to look not just at their proposals but how they interact."

    Or one can take the short-cut and consider what life was like for working people here in the late 19th Century, because despite the mendacious platitudes that is where the R&R boys and their hard right friends want to take the country.

  • c u n d gulag on October 25, 2012 1:05 PM:

    Ryan's a sociopath - that should come as no surprise to anyone who's not also a fellow sociopath.

    Having said that, I'm off to help the campaign of Sean Patrick Maloney, as he tries to unseat our Teabagging Congresscritter, Nan Hayworth(less).

  • Gandalf on October 25, 2012 1:11 PM:

    Robert from upstate @ 12:54
    I think your right on the money. They want to return to the nineteenth century.
    I saw a republican commercial in Ohio yesterday that was about a machine shop owner who was just overwhelmed with onerous regulations that kept her from expanding her business. Now searching for these onerous regulations what you'll find are laws taht keep them from pollutin,worker safety laws,zoning ordinances and laws governibg accounting practices.
    Now why on earth would anyone in their right mind want to get rid of these?

  • Josef K on October 25, 2012 1:18 PM:

    The great tragedy is that people will still vote for R/R in the blind faith that they themselves will not be directly affected. Naturally when they see their benefits cut and are heading into bankruptcy court, they'll moan and complain about how the government should have stepped in and spared them.

    I try to have some compassion for these idiots, I really do, but fall well short given what kind of damage their votes unleash on the rest of us.

  • paul on October 25, 2012 1:21 PM:

    Democrats and sane republicans have been pointing out that the highest effective marginal tax rates are paid by poor people, and that rates over 100% lead to a severe disincentive. Somehow no one before thought "Work or Die" was a good alternative.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on October 25, 2012 1:36 PM:

    "Medicaid could reduce a person’s incentive to earn more money..."

    You know, it does grate the nerves when the GOP, of all people, talk about poor people who have to hustle at the lowest level in order to survive.

    Can they clarify what qualifies for "earn more money". If someone qualifies for Medicaid, unless they can earn well above of the maximum allowable amount of income, it's not a very good idea to earn a spit above what is allowable. If they earn more and are dropped from Medicaid, they need to have the extra income to make up for market-price health insurance.

    And this isn't something that just lazy poor people do, and any human resources department knows this. My brother turned down a higher paying job because when he evaluated the benefits, he realized he'd would have a net loss based on the benefits the organization was offering. Even now, my job is having open enrollment, and we were already briefed about benefit changes that affect our bottom-line: Don't try to save money by getting the cheapo insurance--You'll pay more after taxes AND for your out-of-pocket costs. If you're married, put the family health insurance under the spouse with the lesser income, because she/he will be charged less per the company pay-scale/bracket system. Standard cost-benefit analysis. Everybody does this--shifting our earnings around to make things more beneficial. (Me, especially. Flexible Spending Accounts are AMAZING for my bottom line!!!)

    And the GOP should know this. Have taxes or corporate welfare ever prevented any of these rich mutherfuckers from making more money. No, they do what poor people and everyone else in between does, albeit more successfully: they obscure and reclassify their earnings as everything else but income so they get a lower tax rate.

  • Bo on October 25, 2012 1:47 PM:

    The MittWit and Doogie Hauser can say anything they want during this campaign . . . and they do.

    If and when push came to shove, does anyone really, REALLY believe that they would voucherize and block grant away all of the programs that created the great Red State Socialism of the Gingrich era? Not for a minute!

    These two empty suits are playing the gullible low-information voters for the fools that they are.

  • Michael on October 25, 2012 1:58 PM:

    I posted a comment in your original thread last night after everybody had gone for the day. At risk of being perceived a dick, I'm re-posting here:

    I can put a face on these statistics for you: Mine.

    I've become disabled with a bitch of a chronic lung infection which requires me to take an antibiotic drug cocktail which leaves me even further debilitated.

    Were it not for MediCal, there's no way in hell I could even dream of affording these meds keeping me alive - it would cost nearly a grand a month. Not to mention the doctor appointments, blood work, lung scans...

    Thankfully I live in California - so I have a fighting chance of keeping my life-giving coverage even should the Fascist Party manage to steal another election.

    Were I a Red State denizen, you'd might as well start outfitting me for burial in Potter's Field.

    These Un-American monsters must not be permitted to succeed in their evil plans to dismantle our country.

  • Mitch on October 25, 2012 2:13 PM:

    @Robert from upstate

    "Or one can take the short-cut and consider what life was like for working people here in the late 19th Century ..."

    This is one of the main difficulties in speaking with my "conservative" friend that I have had recently. They have forgotten what life was like in the 19th Century, and in the 20th, before the Progressive Era. Or, rather, they have been misinformed, and educted with a false narrative that our "rugged individualist" ancestors lived in some sort of Golden Age.

    The modern "conservative" movement is without regard for facts, including (but by no means limited to) Historical facts. Well, we all know what happens to those who forget history.

  • TCinLA on October 25, 2012 3:07 PM:

    To see the kind of society these scum want, all you have to do is watch the BBC America series, "Copper," set in 1864 New York City.

  • boatboy_srq on October 25, 2012 3:10 PM:

    GOPers make all sorts of magical claims about their ability—somehow, some way, some time—to boost private-sector employment, even as they guarantee the elimination of actual, existing public-sector jobs (which are somehow less “real” than the hypothetical jobs of the future).

    Interesting footnote to this: in Virginia, Tim Kaine is getting blasted - by American Crossroads, no less - about lost jobs in the state (and by that they seem to mean lost public-sector jobs). Heads-they-win, indeed...

  • Linkmeister on October 25, 2012 3:57 PM:

    Minor correction: While it's Pierce's home blog, the post taking Bai down was written by Mark Warren.

  • zandru on October 25, 2012 4:23 PM:

    "you have to look not just at their proposals but how they interact"

    That's for the reality-based community: the libs and progressives. The point of GOP proposals/rhetoric is to punch the appropriate buttons on their less informed, less analytical base.

    These buttons include negatives/hiss lines like "lazy minorities", "welfare", "entitlements", "higher taxes", etc.

    On the plus side (where a chorus of angels sing) are "entrepreneurs", "job creators", "patriot*", "self-reliance", "guns" - and so on.

    They know that all they need to do is send a thrill up the leg of each Republican/Independent, and they've got another vote. The suckers will never bother to think it through.

  • gregor on October 25, 2012 4:26 PM:

    Sane Republican?

    where is she?

  • Yellow dog on October 26, 2012 12:49 AM:

    Ryan got in the requisite welfare lies and media-ready lines on caring for the poor. The details will not get much discussion--but they should. This speech is the equivalent of Romney saying, "OF COURSE the numbers add up..." when asked about his tax plan. Of course... Take my word for it. I am entirely credible.
    Romney and Ryan deserve scrutiny and skepticism on every single policy. They have so little regard for basic honesty that each speech requires a laugh track or a plea for penance.