As Rep. Paul Ryan’s financial ideas garner more national scrutiny, a trio of stories this week show that they collide with past Republican policies, including those of one of the party’s icons.
In an op-ed piece for the New York Times Monday, David Stockman, who served as the Office of Budget and Management’s director under Ronald Reagan, slammed the vice-presidential candidate’s financial plan for lacking decisive policy measures.
“The Ryan Plan boils down to a fetish for cutting the top marginal income-tax rate for ‘job creators’ — i.e. the superwealthy — to 25 percent and paying for it with an as-yet-undisclosed plan to broaden the tax base,” Stockman wrote. “Of the $1 trillion in so-called tax expenditures that the plan would attack, the vast majority would come from slashing popular tax breaks for employer-provided health insurance, mortgage interest, 401(k) accounts, state and local taxes, charitable giving and the like, not to mention low rates on capital gains and dividends. The crony capitalists of K Street already own more than enough Republican votes to stop that train before it leaves the station.”
According to a post published at The Hill on Tuesday, Ryan (R-WI) has also worked to undo a part of Reagan’s economic legacy: the spousal protection clause under Medicaid. In each of the past two years, Scott Lilly wrote, Ryan has proposed gutting federal aid for state Medicaid programs, including the elimination of the 1988 mandate allowing patients’ spouses to protect their assets and income while receiving Medicare assistance.
“Disturbingly, that plan developed and pushed by Rep. Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, was adopted in the House on both occasions,” says Lilly, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “The Ryan budget failed to become law only because of objections in the U.S. Senate and the threat of a veto from the White House.”
It also turns out that Ryan was part of a Republican bloc that, according to Bloomberg News, was reportedly pressured by anti-tax advocate Grover Nordquist into shooting down the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles agreement, which proposed mixing tax increases with spending cuts in order to cut the federal deficit by $3.8 trillion over a 10-year period.
Ryan was part of an 18-member panel that could have sent the plan to Congress for a vote with 14 votes, but one of his fellow panel members, former Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), said he withdrew support for the plan as he moved into position to push his own plans to cut Medicare as the House Budget Committee chairman.
“As his perception of the politics became clearer, I don’t think he felt any need to go with anything less than he would propose,” Schakowsky said.
The rub there is, Ryan’s running mate, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said during the party primaries that he wanted to “to move our tax system in the direction of the Bowles-Simpson Commission’s recommendations, where they said, ‘Look, can’t we lower the rates and broaden the base, by eliminating some deductions and exemptions.'”