OPINION AND EDITORIAL
WHAT PAUL RYAN'S MAGIC BUDGET FORGOT TO MENTION
The top 1 % will get richer
March 17, 2013
News & Opinion By Robert Reich
ROBERT B. REICH
(NATIONAL) -- “Who is going to end up making all the money in the end if Obamacare continues to be in place?” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus growled Monday on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. “It’s going to be the big corporations, right? And who gets screwed? The middle class.”
The Republican Party makeover is breathtaking.
Now, suddenly, instead of accusing Democrats of being “redistributionists,” the GOP is posing as defender of the middle class against corporate America — and it’s doing so by proposing to do away with the most progressive piece of legislation in well over a decade.
Paul Ryan’s new budget purportedly gets about 40 percent of its $4.6 trillion in spending cuts over ten years by repealing Obamacare, but Ryan’s budget document doesn’t mention that such a repeal would also lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy that foot Obamacare’s bill.
According to an analysis by the non-partisan Tax Foundation, Obamacare redistributes income from the wealthy to the middle class. This is mainly because it hikes Medicare taxes on the top 2 percent (singles earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000, including their investment income).
This year, for example, families in the top 1 percent will be paying about $52,000 more in Medicare taxes, on average, than they paid in 2012.
And where will the money go? Not to pay for the healthcare of poor families; most of them already receive Medicaid. The rich will be helping middle and lower-middle class Americans.
Obamacare also imposes some taxes and fees on insurance companies, drug makers, and manufacturers of medical devices. Here again, most of this will be borne by affluent Americans, who own most shares of stock (assuming the taxes and fees come out of corporate profits). And, again, beneficiaries are in the middle and lower-middle class.
The man has it backwards
In other words, Mr. Priebus has it exactly backwards. If Obamacare were repealed, who would end up making all the money? Big corporations and the wealthy. Who would get screwed? The middle class.
The rest of Ryan’s budget plan also runs counter to the new Republican thematic. Not only does it turn Medicare into vouchers (“premium support” in Republican-speak) whose value can’t possibly keep up with rising healthcare costs but it also dramatically reduces spending on education, infrastructure, and much else the middle class depends on.
Meanwhile, it redistributes upward, cutting the top tax rate for individuals down to 25 percent — a bigger tax cut for the top than even Mitt Romney proposed — and the corporate tax rate down to 25 percent, from 35 percent today.
Ryan would pay for these tax cuts by “closing tax loopholes,” but — where did we hear this before? — his budget doesn’t say which loopholes, or even hint at what it would do with rates on capital gains and dividends.
Like Romney’s plan, it leaves all the heavy lifting to Congress.
The reality, of course, is that the only possible way Ryan could pay for his proposed tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations would be to raise taxes on the middle class.
Don’t expect the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, or other Republicans reading from the same talking points, to admit any of this.
But if you look at what they’re proposing rather than what they’re saying, the GOP isn’t really interested in balancing the budget at all. It’s out to redistribute income and wealth — to the best-off Americans, from everyone else.
If any party is into redistribution, it’s the Republicans. And Paul Ryan is leading the charge.
Ryan's Regressiveness Redux
Republicans lost the election but they still shape what’s debated in Washington — the federal budget deficit and so-called “fiscal responsibility.”
The White House’s and the Democrat’s continuing failure to reshape that debate has lead directly and logically to Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which is a more regressive version of the same plan American voters resoundingly rejected last November.
Sadly, the President is playing into the GOP’s hands with a new round of negotiations over a “grand bargain.”
Despite February’s encouraging job numbers, the major challenge is still jobs, wages, growth, and widening inequality — not deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility.
We’d need numbers like February’s every month for the next four years to get anywhere close to the level of unemployment we had before the Great Recession. But we won’t get there because of the austerity policies the nation has embarked on, and the continuing erosion of the middle class.
Austerity economics and runaway erosion of the middle class
Austerity economics — of which Ryan’s upcoming budget is the most extreme version — is a cruel hoax. Cruel because it hurts most those who are already hurting; a hoax because it doesn’t work.
The entire framework is based on the false analogy that the federal budget is akin to a family’s budget.
Families do have to balance their budgets. But that’s precisely why the federal government has to be the spender of last resort when consumer spending falls short of boosting the economy toward full employment.
And as long as income and wealth continue to concentrate at the very top, the broad middle class and those aspiring to join it won’t have the purchasing power to boost the economy.
So why even try for a “grand bargain” that won’t deal with these fundamentals but only further legitimize the GOP mythology and further mislead the public about what’s really at stake?
ROBERT B. REICH, currently Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century.
He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock" and “The Work of Nations." His latest, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. This article originally appeared at RobertReich.org
This article ran originally on March 13 as an Op-Ed piece in our Breaking News category.