In preparation for going to a townhall meeting with Paul Ryan next week (he is my very own personal congressman), this morning I actually downloaded and read his so-called Path to Prosperity. I am not a politico. I am not a policy wonk. I am not a statistician. Heck - I'm not even a Trusted Diarist (in fact, I just recently began posting here and have already upset people because I'm not quite sure how to do URL links and photos and videos and all of that other stuff yet). I am a...5th grade teacher.
Yet, even as a lowly elementary school teacher, I was totally blown away by the inaccuracies, omissions, and false claims I was able to detect in my first reading of the document. I was further shocked that a 5th grade teacher with a laptop could find a substantial amount of data online that contradicted these pie-in-the-sky claims made by a wealthy member of Congress, who has the entire resources of the federal government at his disposal.
In short, I came to the conclusion that this is not a serious budget proposal, but rather one, giant THEORY (i.e. GUESS) about what might happen if his plan is adopted. The one and only analysis of the proposal that he included in Appendix II was done by the Center for Data Analysis - at The Heritage Foundation. Seriously, was that the most objective source he could find? Has he never heard of the Congressional Budget Office? Oops - actually, he has. He does cite some of their research when it suits him. When it doesn't, he conveniently leaves out CBO information that would disprove his theories.
Please, please, please read this document before you go to a townhall meeting or contact your congressional representatives. I can't even begin to tell you how much it will help you clarify what exactly it is about his plan that you hate. Just some of the things that struck me are after the jump.
The first sentence of Ryan's summary (p.5) is, "Where the President has failed, House Republicans will lead." Huh? Blame the guy who's only been in office for two years for deficit problems that began with Reagan? And what was Mr. Ryan doing during the Bush years? Voting for unfunded wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (>$1 trillion and counting). Voting for an unfunded Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit (>$1 trillion over 10 years). Voting against allowing the government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare Part D (which charges 58% more for drugs than the VA because the VA CAN negotiate). Voting for the Bush tax cuts ($4.4 trillion over 10 years). The entire document ignores the fact that the Republicans, including Paul Ryan, drove the country into an economic ditch during the Bush years. Convenient omission? Outright lies about what's causing the deficit? You decide.
Page 14 put me right over the edge. In discussing the economics behind his Medicare proposal, he goes off on the same old Republican riff about how the private sector is wonderful and the government is evil when it comes to healthcare. He states that, in spite of the Obama's healthcare plan, "rapidly rising health-care costs remain as big a problem as ever. In 2010, health-care costs rose by over 7 percent compared to around 1 percent for all other goods and services." What does he FAIL to say? The rise in healthcare costs is actually starting to slow down. Healthcare cost growth has slowed by 2.5 percentage points in the past 9 months, according the most recent S&P Healthcare Economic Index released just yesterday!
What else does he fail to say? Private health insurance costs have risen 7.97% in the past year, as opposed to a 3.22% increase in Medicare costs. And recent figures put the administrative costs of private health insurance at 7%, while Medicare is less than 2%! If this is the "kind of waste that is inevitable in a top-down, government-run system," why isn't our entire healthcare system like Medicare? Oh - that's right - that's what we would call "socialism."
And what is he admitting? Unless we make fundamental changes in our for-profit healthcare industry, the vouchers that seniors receive for CouponCare will not even begin to cover the gap between overall inflation and healthcare inflation.
I can't even write about how his tax cuts will create jobs and save the United States. I will just state that all of his projections are based on - what? Assumptions? Heritage Foundation ideology? Grrrr!
Omissions? Inaccuracies? False claims (aka lies)? There're all there in his 73-page plan. My copy is now full of highlighting and written comments. I will have it with me when I see Mr. Ryan next week. So go ahead - take your own little foray into Paul Ryan's fantasy world. And next time a Republican holds a townhall meeting, wave your own marked-up plan proudly in the air!