By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
OK. Whether you like his plan or not, can we all agree on one thing? Paul Ryan does not walk on water. But you’d never know that from the media adulation that’s smothered him ever since he announced his deficit-reduction plan last week.
You know Ryan. He’s the guy with the “jet black hair and a touch of Eagle Scout to him,” gushes Time magazine. He’s the congressman from Wisconsin with “the piercing blue eyes, love for heavy metal on his iPod and a reputation among Democrats, including President Obama, as a Republican who has put forward budget ideas that are thoughtful and serious,” babbles the New York Times. And he’s put forth a budget plan, insists columnist David Brooks, that is, “the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes.”
Oh, give me a break. Get a room!
Let’s be honest. I’ve never gazed into Paul Ryan’s “piercing blue eyes,” but I have examined his plan. There’s nothing bold, comprehensive, courageous, or even original about it. It’s nothing but a collection of all the recycled, right-wing, rejected Republican policies of the past, rolled into one document. Most of which are less applicable today than when they were first proposed by Ronald Reagan more than 30 years ago.
Here’s what Ryan’s plan would do. For a long time, Republicans have yearned to get rid of Medicare — even though it’s the single most effective government program. Ryan finally does it. He shuts down Medicare as we know it and forces seniors, armed with a voucher, to go shopping for the best health care deal they can wrangle out of private insurance companies.
Ryan would shut down Medicaid, too, by turning the whole program over to states — and we all know how flush they are with cash these days. He would also repeal Obama’s health care reform plan, even though the Congressional Budget Office has shown that repeal would actually add $230 billion to the deficit over the next decade. Two-thirds of Ryan’s cuts, in fact, come from programs serving the middle-class and the poor — while he proposes no cuts at all in the massive Pentagon budget.
As for new sources of revenue, there aren’t any. Ryan pretends we can get rid of the deficit by budget cuts alone. In fact, he would further slash revenues by offering the wealthiest Americans yet another tax cut, and lowering the tax rate for big corporations, even though most of them don’t pay their fair share today, if they pay any taxes at all.
But the biggest secret about the Ryan plan is that, when it comes to balancing the deficit, it’s a total con job. Especially because it contains no new sources of revenue, it would take a long time to kick in. In fact, the Republican Study Committee estimates that Ryan’s scheme would actually not balance the federal budget until 2050 — or maybe even 2080! And getting from here to there would require raising the debt ceiling multiple times.
As disastrous as his plan is for the American people, Congressman Ryan actually did President Obama a big favor by releasing it when he did. And GOP leaders John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell compounded the favor by embracing it so enthusiastically.
Thanks to them, the debate over 2012 is now clearly framed. The differences are real. And Obama amplified those differences for the entire nation to see in his speech on fiscal policy at George Washington University — which many correctly called the first speech of the 2012 campaign.
Because, between these two budget plans, already the choice facing voters is clear. Obama’s plan would save Medicare and Medicaid. The GOP plan would not. Obama’s plan would cut Pentagon spending. The GOP plan would not. Obama’s plan would raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires. The GOP plan would give the wealthy and big corporations another tax cut. No campaign ever started out with two such dramatically different visions for America.
Which even members of the media must recognize. Indeed, with President Obama’s own roadmap for cutting the deficit now on the table, it’s time for reporters to stop focusing on Paul Ryan’s black hair and blue eyes — and start exposing the cruel realities of his plan.
© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.