Published: Tuesday 1 May 2012
“Ryan proposes massive tax increases on the middle class to finance tax cuts to the wealthy.”

In Washington all serious people routinely write columns in which they set themselves above the political fray and pronounce the Republicans and Democrats equally to blame for political gridlock and all that they see wrong with the world. Today, it is my turn.

Of course beating up on the Republicans is pretty easy these days; you mostly just have to repeat what they say. Their standard bearer, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, has proposed a budget that eliminates the national park system, the Justice Department and federal courts, the Food and Drug Administration and most other areas of the federal budget over the next four decades.

According to the analysis done by the Congressional Budget Office, the Ryan budget, which was endorsed by the Republican House and Governor Romney, shrinks non-Social Security and non-health care spending to 4.75 percent of GDP by 2040 and to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050. With the military budget taking up 3-4 percent of GDP, everything else goes to zero somewhere in this period.

Ryan also proposes massive tax increases on the middle class to finance tax cuts to the wealthy. He wants to reduce the top tax rate on high-income earners by more than one-third compared with its baseline level. He proposes to maintain revenue neutrality be eliminating tax deductions that benefit the middle class, like the mortgage interest tax deduction and the deduction for employer-provided health insurance.

How many people will feel good about a budget that eliminates most of the governmental functions that we take for granted – drug safety, courts, a State Department and passport office? How will people feel about paying higher taxes so that Mitt Romney can pay less? These are the questions raised by the Republican budget. Hopefully they will be presented clearly in the campaign so that the public can make an informed ...

Published: Wednesday 11 April 2012
“For workers struggling to raise children on poverty wages, the Earned Income Tax Credit is a vital lifeline.”

What the Republican budget proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan doesn't say is in many respects more ominous than what it says—and on taxes, perhaps more indicative of the truth. For while the Ryan slash-and-burn budget proposal doesn't come right out and say it, it could have some low-income and middle-class people paying higher taxes than they would under a more progressive proposal that is not tilted toward the wealthy.

There is practically no other way to make the numbers add up in a budget that would create or continue a total of $10 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations over 10 years while making cuts in government spending so deep that the economy would be slowed, resulting in 4.1 million fewer jobs created over 10 years.

The nice-sounding tax-cut sizzle in the Ryan Republican plan is a simplified tax structure on earned income, with 10 percent and 25 percent tax brackets, plus the lower capital gains rate of 15 percent. Ryan also promises the elimination of deductions and credits that he, in his "Road to Prosperity" budget manifesto, denounces because they direct "resources to politically favored uses, creating a drag on economic growth and job creation" and even "take taxes paid by hardworking Americans and issue government checks to individuals and corporations who do not owe any taxes at all"

But where one might expect to find the steak lurks a poisonous tax snake instead. A bulletin issued last week by the Coalition for Human Needs raised the relevant questions:

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) asserts that the new tax cuts will be paid for by cuts to other tax expenditures—that is, the deductions and credits that make up so much of the tax code. But while the budget is fairly specific in recommending cuts to services, it is utterly silent on which ...

Published: Wednesday 28 March 2012
“The Budget for All stands for progressive taxation. The Republican budget cuts taxes for the 1 percent and shifts economic burdens to the 99 percent.”

Later this week on the floor of the House of Representatives, several federal budget proposals embodying different approaches to our country's economic challenges will compete for attention. One of those, the Congressional Progressive Caucus's "Budget for All," offers the most dramatic contrast between the effort by House Republicans to double down on the failed conservative policies of the past and a contrasting approach that is our only real hope for rebuilding the middle class and getting the nation out from under the specter of crushing debt.

We all should be rallying behind the Budget for All as a counter to the Budget for the 1 Percent that the House Republicans have put forward under the leadership of Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Here are three reasons why.

The Budget for All will create jobs. The Republican Budget for the 1 Percent will kill them.

The Budget for All contains a long list of initiatives, more than $2 trillion worth, designed to put people to work doing jobs that need to be done, such as repairing schools, upgrading and expanding our transportation network, protecting our communities, providing health care and other services to those in need. The Republican budget would slash discretionary spending by $38 billion below the ...

Published: Tuesday 27 March 2012
“In Representative Ryan’s 2012 Roadmap there is no room for federal funding for all the services that even conservatives expect the government to provide.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan did a great public service when he released his budget last week. By throwing a piece of total garbage on the table and pretending it is a real budget plan, he allowed us to see who in Washington is serious about the budget and who just says things that will push their agenda.

It is easy to see that Ryan himself could not possible be serious about the document he put out as “Path to Prosperity.” The Congressional Budget Office analysis of the plan, which was prepared under Representative Ryan’s direction, shows that all categories of government spending outside of health care and Social Security will shrink to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050.

This 3.75 percent of GDP includes defense spending, which is currently close to 4.0 percent of GDP, not including the cost of the war in Afghanistan. Representative Ryan said that he wants to keep defense spending close to its current level. This means that we have no money left to pay for the Justice Department, the State Department, support for education, roads and other infrastructure, the Park Service, the National Institutes of Health and all the other things that we expect the federal government to do. Essentially Paul Ryan is an anarchist who is proposing to shut down the federal government.

This cannot be a misrepresentation of Representative Ryan’s agenda. He put out essentially the same budget last year at which point many people pointed out the fact that he shrank most categories of government spending to zero. If that was a mistake (albeit an incredibly foolish one) he has now had a full year to reflect on his error and redesign a budget to reflect his real priorities.

Instead, he doubled down. ...

Published: Wednesday 21 March 2012
“The money would come out of programs for the elderly, lower-middle families, and the poor.”

In announcing the Republicans’ new budget and tax plan Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said “We are sharpening the contrast between the path that we’re proposing and the path of debt and decline the president has placed us upon.”

Ryan is right about sharpening the contrast. But the plan doesn’t do much to reduce the debt. Even by its own estimate the deficit would drop to $166 billion in 2018 and then begin growing again.

The real contrast is over what the plan does for the rich and what it does to everyone else. It reduces the top individual and corporate tax rates to 25 percent. This would give the wealthiest Americans an average tax cut of at least $150,000 a year.

The money would come out of programs for the elderly, lower-middle families, and the poor.

Seniors would get subsidies to buy private health insurance or Medicare – but the subsidies would be capped. So as medical costs increased, seniors would fall further and further behind.

Other cuts would come out of food stamps, Pell grants to offset the college tuition of kids from poor families, and scores of other programs that now help middle-income and the poor.

The plan also calls for repealing Obama’s health-care overhaul, thereby eliminating healthcare for 30 million Americans and allowing insurers to discriminate against (and drop from coverage) people with pre-existing conditions.

The plan would carve an additional $19 billion out of next year’s “discretionary” spending over and above what Democrats agreed to last year. Needless to say, discretionary spending includes most of programs for lower-income families.

Not surprisingly, the Pentagon would be spared.

So what’s the guiding principle here? Pure social Darwinism. Reward the rich and cut off the help to anyone who needs it.

Ryan says too many Americans rely on government benefits. “We ...

Published: Tuesday 14 February 2012
“It maintains a decade of red ink while putting off until after the election — at the earliest — any detailed proposals to fix long-term problems in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

President Barack Obama's proposed federal budget is more campaign commercial than governing document.

His $3.8 trillion budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 — and blueprint for the coming decade — is filled with promises sure to appeal to voters that he wants to win for his re-election in November, such as new spending to hire teachers and tax increases on the wealthy.

Yet it has no chance of passing Congress, where Republicans already have vetoed his calls for more spending and taxes. It offers little prospect of breaking the Washington cycle of lurching from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis with temporary agreements and no consensus on permanent solutions. And it maintains a decade of red ink while putting off until after the election — at the earliest — any detailed proposals to fix long-term problems in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

"It's not going to be enacted," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan group that advocates fiscal responsibility. "It's designed to shape the campaign. There's a lot of spending for new investments and there's spending caps in the future so he can claim two things at once."

"The president's budget fails to lay out a substantive path to restore fiscal sanity," said David M. Walker, former director of the Government Accountability Office. "It does not include enough specifics regarding comprehensive tax reform and neglects any reforms to Social Security. It is not bold enough or specific enough regarding proposed changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other health reforms."

Obama unveiled his budget proposal at a community college in Annandale, Va., — a swing state he won in 2008 and is courting heavily this year — where he used the same broad themes he's used since Labor Day to frame the coming election.

"We've got a choice," he ...

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