With its highly touted author now chairing the House Budget Committee, you would think that the year-old Roadmap for America's Future would be on the lips of every leader of the GOP House majority. After all, the blueprint for boosting the fortunes of America's most fortunate while gutting key New Deal and Great Society programs is tailor-made for Republicans (and the cohort of conservative Democrats determined to align with them). But, as Robert Costa at the National Review Online, wrote earlier this week, there so far seems to be significant reluctance from Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, to stand unflinchingly behind the specifics of Ryan's proposal. And, surprisingly, some reluctance can also be seen among the newly elected Reps backed by the Tea Partyers.
So far, that is. With the White House and Senate still in Democratic hands, this hesitance may simply be tactical. The worst of Ryan's ideas presumably won't have much chance of becoming law for the next two years. But if the Republicans sense weakness, and if they see the possibility that the slowly improving economy will enhance Democratic prospects in 2012, they may choose to be more aggressive in this spring's budget discussions. That means Ryan's ideas might get a bigger immediate push than expected. The question, as always: How much resistance will those we elected to be our voice put up against those ideas?
This makes Andrew
Whitehouse's Fieldhouse's smackdown of the "roadmap" at the Economic Policy Institute timely reading. Highlights:
• The Roadmap would raise taxes on Americans making between $20,000 and $200,000 while slashing taxes in half for the wealthiest Americans. Some three-fourths of Americans would face tax increases.
• The Roadmap would replace corporate taxation with a regressive consumption tax. The corporate income tax would be replaced by an 8.5 percent flat tax. "Not only would corporate taxes fall dramatically, but the profits passed on to owners and shareholders would be tax free, generating significantly more wealth for
the owners of businesses."
• The Roadmap would place the entire burden of deficit reduction on spending cuts. "The hefty tax hikes on the middle class included in the plan do not go toward deficit reduction. Nor does the Roadmap’s overall revenue plan improve the long-term fiscal outlook. The plan actually reduces federal revenue relative to either current law or current policy."
• The Roadmap calls for dismantling Medicare and Medicaid, defunding important social programs without addressing the rising cost of health care throughout the economy, and, of course, making our class-based rationing of health care even worse.
• The Roadmap would cut benefits and partially privatize Social Security. The retirement age would be raised, benefits would be cut for most workers now under 55, and the 76-year-old social insurance program "would be gradually replaced with a two-tiered system of privatized accounts for the wealthy and a schedule of reduced benefits unrelated to lifetime earnings for lower-income working Americans." For a worker who is now 25, that would mean a 24 percent cut in benefits upon retirement, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
While Republicans may be cautious about trying to push for all these retrograde policies in the immediate future, these changes (and more) are what they have in mind for Gilded Age II: Finish the job of destroying progressive taxation, continue increasing income inequality, and wreck entitlement and social programs with cuts in benefits and spending. Even if the leadership does not officially sign onto Ryan's Roadmap, we'll be hearing numerous paeans to elements of his plan for the next several months. Even if these aren't acknowledged as being from his plan. Democrats worthy of the name ought to smack down those praises every time someone - on either side of the aisle - sings them.