Paul Ryan's 'Path to Prosperity' ... for the Rich

Released Tuesday morning amid great fanfare, Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget proposal is turning out to be a grab bag of right-wing economic crankery. In fact, that's too nice: the proposal is flat out awful. And when I say "awful," I don't just mean evisceration-of-two-very-popular-social-safety-net-programs or two-thirds-of-proposed-spending-cuts-from-low-income-programs awful, but tax-hikes-on-middle-and-low-income-folks-combined-with-tax-cuts-for-the-rich awful.

Filled with nonsensical gems like, "The U.S. government is not running sustained deficits because Americans are taxed too little," Ryan's – and by extension the Republican Party's – plan contains several glaring flaws and omissions. Not only does it use completely made-up numbers, and fantastical assumptions about future employment levels and economic growth, but the plan also makes vague promises of lower "tax rates for individuals, businesses and families;" but which individuals and families?


Political pundits, like New York Times columnist David Brooks, along with many likely 2012 Republican presidential nominees, have unsurprisingly heaped praise on Ryan's budget proposal. Lauding the "seriousness" of the Wisconsinite's plan, Brooks gushes, "[Ryan] would reform the tax code along the Simpson-Bowles lines, but without the tax increases."

This assertion is, of course, false. Ryan's plan will absolutely raise taxes; it's just going to be on the poor and middle class. At the same time, he'll be lowering income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. Ryan claims his proposal will "consolidate tax brackets and lower tax rates, with a top rate of 25 percent."

Interestingly, the House Budget Chair's office fails to provide details of what that bracket structure will look like, but it will likely resemble the disastrous tax reform proposal contained in Ryan's "Roadmap for the Future." As detailed by the Center for Tax Justice (CTJ), the "Roadmap" calls for lower taxes on the top wealthiest five percent of Americans while raising taxes on the lowest quintile of low income folks by over 12 percent.

Jonathan Chait of The New Republic points out that Ryan's plans for Medicare and Medicaid – along with all the other reductions to safety net programs like SNAP – work in conjunction with the congressman's tax reform plan:

... Ryan's level of cutting goes far beyond what's needed to preserve [the Medicare and Medicaid] programs, and it does so in order to clear room for a very large, regressive tax cut. He is making a choice – not just cut Medicare to save Medicare, but also to cut Medicare in order to cut taxes for the rich.

Steve Benen over at Political Animal provides a less than measured, yet completely appropriate, summary of Ryan's approach:

There's nothing courageous or serious or 'lovable' about any of this. It's radical callousness at a level unseen in the United States in generations. Paul Ryan has seen the modern American social contract, and he wants to shred it, to be replaced with 'Atlas Shrugged.'

Right. Whether or not the wealthiest five percent of Americans are jumping for joy in response to Ryan's proposal, the other 95 percent of us should be praying this thing dies a miserable death in Congress.

Image by Flickr user Gage Skidmore used under a Creative Commons license.

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