House Budget Committee Chairman Representative Paul Ryan, R-WI, speaks about his budget plan on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
In the Wall Street Journal this morning, Representative Paul Ryan gets halfway to being honest about this year’s House GOP budget: he writes that “the contrast with our budget [and the president’s] couldn’t be clearer: We put our trust in citizens, not government. Our budget returns power to individuals, families and communities.”
That’s an honest admission by Ryan that the GOP budget is a philosophical, political document: it seeks to radically alter the relationship between Americans and the federal government. Never mind that his numbers are fuzzy to the point of fantasy, nor that despite all the bombast about addressing the debt crisis, Ryan’s plan wouldn’t restore a federal surplus for nearly three decades, if it ever does—that’s all besides the point. This budget is an ideological proposition that proposes help for some and sacrifice for others in the name of a different society.
Where he’s dishonest, of course, is the “returning power to individuals” bit. That’s a common conservative trope for simply cutting government benefits—one might gain some perverse interpretation of empowerment, but practically speaking, just have less money for healthcare.
When you pick apart the House GOP budget—who gets helped, and who is asked to make sacrifices—the philosophy Ryan is advocating emerges. And it’s not pretty.
Whom the Ryan Budget Helps
A shorter version of this section might simply read “the top 1 percent.” High earners and corporations are lavished with giveaways under the Ryan plan, and the military and health insurance companies don’t do so bad either.
The very wealthy. Ryan proposes repealing the alternative minimum tax along with the investment taxes proposed under healthcare reform. Then he replaces the current six income brackets with two—and the top bracket pays only 25 percent on their income, as opposed to 35 percent now. That’s a $2 trillion gift for America’s top earners over the next ten years.
Corporations. The budget proposal also slashes the top corporate tax rate, also from 35 percent to 25 percent. (Ryan proposes also closing some loopholes that might, possibly, maybe affect corporations—but, as was true last year, he refuses to say which loopholes he would close.) For good measure, he would also allow corporations to bring massive amounts of money, earned and stored overseas, back to America tax-free. On balance, this is a $1 trillion gift to corporations over the next ten years.