Ryan Budget: Madness or Meaningful?

In this Agora, Dan Georgakas says Congressman Paul Ryan's proposed deep budget cuts are madness, but Constantinos Scaros says the government's $1 million-per-minute spending is the real insanity.

In this Agora, Dan Georgakas says Congressman Paul Ryan’s proposed deep budget cuts are madness, but Constantinos Scaros says the government’s $1 million-per-minute spending is the real insanity.

GEORGAKAS:

Let’s talk about the proposed federal budget now being considered by the House of Representatives. It is authored by Paul Ryan, the last Republican candidate for Vice-President, who has utter disdain for major polices of past Republican presidents. Ryan proposes to lower the national debt by providing tax breaks for America’s 1% superrich while lowering the standard of living for the rest of us.

The tax breaks for the 1% begin with a 10% cut in their tax rate. Moreover, none of the loopholes that allow corporations like General Electric to pay zero taxes and corporations like Apple to park billions in offshore non-taxed accounts are touched.

Ryan gives a hefty increase in military spending at a time when the military is downsizing as we end two costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The United States already has a bigger military budget than the next five nations combined and many of these five are allies. Rather than serving national security, hikes in military spending just enrich what Eisenhower decried as the military-industrial complex.

The gifts to the rich are paid for by a cut of $5.1 trillion in basic public services. Head Start, for example, a program universally-recognized as success will suffer severe cuts.

So much for George W. Bush’s pledge that “no child will be left behind.” Also slated are cuts in the Pell Grants at a time when college costs are rapidly rising. The Pell grants have been essential for working Americans seeking to better themselves through higher education. Other support of public education is also reduced.

One of Richard Nixon’s accomplishments was to add drug coverage and other reforms to health care. Ryan, in contrast, wants to decimate Medicare and Medicaid.

Rather than going after fraudulent doctors, attorneys, insurance companies, and swindlers, which the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) estimates steal $60-90 billion annually, Ryan takes aim at the sick, the poor, and the elderly. I see parallels to the policies now in effect in Greece.

Medicare is to be gradually privatized by allowing younger people to opt for private insurance. That would eventually bankrupt Medicare and the suckers who went private would only understand their folly when they got into a major car accident, developed a catastrophic illness, had a costly medical procedure, or just got old enough to need to see many doctors. No private plan comes close to providing the safety and choices of Medicare coverage.

Additional “savings” come from more reductions in the food stamp program even though unemployment is still over 6% and many working Americans have marginal wages or can only get part-time employment.

Social Security gets stabbed by making 70 the new retirement age, which would be the highest in the world. Americans might be interested to know that medical studies have shown people who work full time from 65-70 have shorter life spans than those who retire at 62-65. Forcing people to stay employed until 70 is counting on death to help reduce the national deficit.

Ryan proposes repeal of Obamacare. Whether one supports Obamacare or not, Republicans have repeatedly failed in this effort at the cost of considerable legislative time and expense. As long as there are even 41 Senate Democrats, there will be no repeal. Savings based on Obamacare repeal are voodoo economics.

When Democrats and mature Republican Senators quash most of Ryan’s proposals, right-wing extremists will shout that the opposition will not compromise. This is a bit like giving me two ounces of arsenic and suggesting you’d be satisfied if I agree to swallow half the dose.

SCAROS:

Dan, in the five minutes or so that it took our readers to read through your portion of this week’s AGORA, the United States just borrowed another five million dollars.

And in the time to read my opening sentence, another $150,000. That is the staggering pace at which our elected members of Congress – both Democrats and Republicans – of whom collectively about 90% of Americans disapprove, add to our total credit card bill – a bill that might bankrupt us yet.

Unless we reverse this alarming runaway spending soon, someone earning $1000 per week will have $800 taken out in taxes, and go home with a mere $200.

“200? I can’t live on 200!” the bewildered worker might say. Yup.

“But, that would mean I couldn’t pay my mortgage!” Yup.

“And I’d be living on the street!” Yup.

“I’d barely have enough money to put gas in my car and drive to work – I’d even lose my job!” Yup.

“But then, I’d have to pick through garbage cans for scraps of food just to survive!” Precisely.

“Oh,” the disbelieving worker might say, “that’s never going to happen.” Well, that’s what the good people of Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal said, too.

Ryan’s budget doesn’t merely cut spending, it cuts it by a whopping $5,100,000,000,000, which translates into a balanced budget by 2024. And I think that’s not even giving it enough credit: the nature of the budget would finally unleash an economy that has ranged from dormant to timid for far too long, and I’d bet we’d balance the budget half that time.

I agree, Dan, with some of the criticisms you make about Ryan’s budget. It is far from perfect. But it is bold, and a much-needed wake-up call.

I don’t like our nation’s increasing wealth gap any more than you do. Or that health care and education costs are beyond outrageous. Can we spend our defense dollars more prudently without sacrificing an ounce of our military might? Sure.

But the first thing I’d like to see is Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, and with the support of their oft-cheerleader-in-chief, Barack Obama, say: “we’ve got a budget that will cut 5.1 trillion, too. We can balance the budget by 2024, too.” Let’s start there.

Let’s at least get both sides to commit to a balanced budget, at minimum, by 2024. Then they can argue about the details.

I don’t often agree with Mitt Romney – assuming that I even take him at his word – but his proposal during the 2012 presidential race about lowering corporate taxes while closing loopholes is a wise one.

That would actually ease the tax burden for thousands of small and midsize companies, while eliminating the perks to Apple and GE that I rail against every bit as much as you do.

As for health care and education, the answer is not the government. It is the American people, voting with their dollars to address the real problem: why on earth hospital stays and tuition costs are so high to begin with.

Just as the president – this one, or any one – shows up to convey the nation’s grief during a random shooting at some elementary school, so should he or she go to any number of thousands of hospitals and college campuses and express outrage over those despicable costs.

As for individual income taxes: close all loopholes, establish a flat tax or national sales tax. That would prevent multibillionaires paying less in income tax than do their secretaries, but it would also prevent approximately 50% of adult Americans from paying nothing.

If you and I were the ones putting the budget together, Dan, I’d think we’d probably agree, line by line, a lot more often than not. But the key would be to start with the same goal: balance the budget in 10 years or less, and work from there.

Meanwhile, it took me about 40 minutes to write this response. That’s another $40 million our government just blew.

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