Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What's Really Behind RyanCare 3.0

He's back! In case you were missing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Mittpocalypse Now) and his Medicare busting ways, you can miss him no more. He's released yet another House G-O-TEA budget plan this year. And yes, it's yet another attempt to kill Medicare by turning it into an unworkable voucher system (while stripping away the promise of guaranteed care).

And that's not all. There's even more to Ryan's "new old budget plan". Just don't expect any real solutions to any real problems. Ezra Klein explained earlier Ryan's true purpose in proposing this budget.

Here is Paul Ryan’s path to a balanced budget in three sentences: He cuts deep into spending on health care for the poor and some combination of education, infrastructure, research, public-safety, and low-income programs. The Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts remain, but the military is spared, as is Social Security. There’s a vague individual tax reform plan that leaves only two tax brackets —10 percent and 25 percent —and will require either huge, deficit-busting tax cuts or increasing taxes on poor and middle-class households, as well as a vague corporate tax reform plan that lowers the rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

But the real point of Ryan’s budget is its ambitious reforms, not its savings. It turns Medicare into a voucher program, turns Medicaid, food stamps, and a host of other programs for the poor into block grants managed by the states, shrinks the federal role on priorities like infrastructure and education to a tiny fraction of its current level, and envisions an entirely new tax code that will do much less to encourage home buying and health insurance.

Ryan’s budget is intended to do nothing less than fundamentally transform the relationship between Americans and their government. That, and not deficit reduction, is its real point, as it has been Ryan’s real point throughout his career. [...]

It won’t create jobs this year, and will likely cost jobs in the years to come by putting the economy on a steep austerity ramp. There’s no housing policy for the millions of families in foreclosure and no way to read Ryan’s budget without assuming massive cuts to student-loans programs. That may mean fewer families watching student loans pile up, but only because they didn’t get any in the first place.

As for medical costs, fully 59 percent of Ryan’s savings come from new cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare or other health-care programs —and that omits the $800 billion in Medicare cuts he keeps from Obamacare. So there will be less health-care bureaucracy, sure, but also less health care. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that cuts on the order of what Ryan is proposing will mean around 35 million people lose their health-care coverage.

Got that? Paul Ryan demands even more austerity on top of the painful austerity we're already experiencing. And he's demanding even more American austerity as Europe suffers from its ongoing austerity crisis. Clearly, Ryan is on an ideology driven mission. His economic policies just don't add up.

Let's be real here. So much of this nonsense is really just political theater. With the federal budget deadline looming, many Republicans want to "lock in" the nasty budget cuts of the latest manufactured crisis without looking like a bunch of "Springtime Scrooges". So they're hoping Paul Ryan and his Medicare busting budget can do the dirty work for them in shifting "The Overton Window" of the budget debate so far to the right that manufactured crisis induced budget cuts suddenly look "moderate" by comparison.

That's also why supposed "reborn moderate" Dean Heller (R-"Office Space") is joining onto the Senate G-O-TEA bill to defund the Affordable Care Act. Sure, nothing screams "MODERATE!" by threatening one's constituents' health care to demand more job killing austerity. While Heller and his staff fight to squat on precious office space, they're tag-teaming with the likes of Paul Ryan to play games with real peoples' lives.

Of course, Harry Reid is not leaving this unanswered. Rather, Senate Democrats are releasing their own budget plan this week. Here's what we know about it so far.

According to a source familiar with the proposal, Democrats will offer a plan tomorrow that does not simply cut the deficit amid mass unemployment. It takes steps to mitigate the damage the cuts are expected to do to the economy by spending to boost job creation and job training.

According to the source, the plan —which is being presented by Senate Budget Committee Chairperson Patty Murray to the Dem caucus today —replaces the whole sequester and includes a total of $1.85 trillion in deficit reduction, derived from a 50-50 split of cuts and revenues derived from closing tax loopholes. The spending cuts include $275 billion in cuts to health care spending (but no Medicare benefits cuts; the source says cuts would be focused on the provider side), another $200 billion in non-defense spending cuts, $240 billion in defense cuts, and $242 billion in reduced interest rates.

It would spend $100 billion to boost the economy through spending on infrastructure repair and job training —all paid for by closing loopholes and cuts to “wasteful spending.” Total in new revenues: $975 billion. (Details are not yet available.)

Now, surely deficit hawks will find the health care spending cuts wanting. But the point here is that even if you grant that this won’t do much of anything to deal with long term health care costs, this is a generally balanced way to avert the immediate threat posed to the economy by the sequester, if by “balanced,” we mean, “gives both sides some of what they want.” It cuts spending amid the fragile recovery, but does include some stimulus to cushion the impact of deficit reduction. It reduces health care spending while avoiding harm to beneficiaries. Both of those are enabled partly by closing the sort of millionaire loopholes Republicans used to favor closing back when they were trying to do that to avoid raising tax rates on the rich, during the fiscal cliff fight.

Even the Senate Democratic plan has budget cuts. But here, they're at least less severe. And they're somewhat offset by some investment in our economy. If anything, this is a more honest attempt at staking some sort of middle ground in this whacked budget debate on Capitol Hill.

Really, we shouldn't be pursuing any more austerity. This just isn't the right time to pursue large budget cuts. Our economy needs more investment, not less.

Still, something must be done to stop this ongoing manufactured crisis and stop inflicting any more unnecessary economic pain on our people. If Dean Heller and Joe Heck actually want to match their "moderate" words with action, they should stop playing footsie with Paul Ryan and the "tea party"... And encourage their party's leaders to negotiate in good faith with President Obama and Senator Reid to pass a budget that won't inflict any more unnecessary harm on the American economy.

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