Our guest blogger is Michael Linden, Director for Tax and Budget Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Now that Mitt Romney has selected Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to be his running mate, Ryan?s budget plan moves to the center of the presidential campaign. Ryan?s budget is a near-pure distillation of right-wing economic ideology. It would slash basic economic investments, end the Medicare guarantee, decimate the social safety-net, and dramatically cut taxes for the richest households.
If you find it hard to believe that the Republican Party?s budget chief would put forth such a callous plan, you are not alone. When the plan is described to ordinary voters, they literally do not believe that a lawmaker would propose such a plan.
But now that the budget chief is also running to be the Vice President, it?s time for Romney to answer some basic, but critical, questions about how his vision and his running mate?s vision fit together. Here are five:
1. You want to amend the Constitution to require balanced federal budgets, but haven?t explained how to achieve that goal. Ryan?s budget plan, meanwhile, doesn?t balance for at least 30 years. What parts of Ryan?s budget would you change to make it comply with your call for a balanced budget amendment, or is that about how long you think it?ll take to balance the budget?
2. You?ve criticized President Obama for including cuts to Medicare as part of the Affordable Care Act, but Ryan?s budget plan contains the very same cuts. Does that mean Ryan also ?robs? from Medicare? (Today, Romney indicated that the answer may be “yes.”)
3. Ryan?s original budget plan included a proposal for privatizing Social Security. Is that something you support?
4. In the past, you?ve criticized Obama for not embracing the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission’s recommendations. But Ryan actually served on that commission and he voted against the plan. Was Ryan wrong to vote against Bowles-Simpson?
5. You?ve proposed an overall spending cap. But even if you adopted all of the enormous spending cuts in Ryan?s budget, you still wouldn?t comply with the cap because you?ve also called for $1.8 trillion in additional defense spending above Ryan?s levels. What else would you cut in order to hit your proposed target?
Mitt Romney is trying to thread a needle when it comes to the budget. He wants to get credit from the conservative base for aligning himself with the House Republican budget of his running mate, Paul Ryan. At the same time, he doesn't want to open[...]
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In politics and journalism, myth often passes as biography. For evidence, look no further than The New York Times and Washington Post's profiles of newly minted vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who by virtue of a few well-deployed anecdotes?told by his brother and by fellow congressman and confidant Jeff Flake?has been transformed into the apotheosis of the self-made man. The linchpin of this pull-yourself-up-by-you-bootstraps story is the death of his father when Ryan was 16. "It is remarkable that he chose a path of individual responsibility and maturity rather than letting grief take a different course," the candidate's brother tells the Times, which elaborates with an encomium worthy of an Anglo-Saxon epic:
His self-reliance followed him to summer camp, where as a counselor he canoed and hiked, and into young adulthood, where he took up deer hunting. ?
It followed him into college, where he immediately took a passionate interest in the canon of conservative economic theorists and writers. ?
It followed him to Congress, where his brand of conservative economics, honed in Washington?s conservative policy and research groups, eventually inspired the Tea Party freshmen in the House for whom Mr. Ryan has served as seer, cheerleader and workout buddy.
And, finally, it captured the imagination of Mitt Romney, who named Mr. Ryan as the Republicans? presumptive vice-presidential nominee on Saturday.
The Post sings Ryan's virtues in less-poetic terms:
Ryan?s big ideas bear the stamp of his own story: They stress independence and self-reliance, the qualities that took him from the mailroom to a spot on his party?s presidential ticket. What government owes its citizens, Ryan says, is not a guarantee of happiness?only a fair shot to pursue it. ...
In his private life, Ryan pursues the hobbies of an everyman with an overachiever?s zeal. He sweats through grueling ?P90x? workouts in the House gym. He beats other legislators in contests to recite the most lines from ?Fletch.? And he fishes for catfish?with his bare hands.
I can see it now, a promo for a TV movie: a shot of Paul Ryan standing atop a mountain with a deer flung across his back dissolves into footage of him in a college dorm room, enraptured by Atlas Shrugged while through the window unruly women's rights protesters burn bras. We see a young Ryan working at McDonald's as a teenager, then cut to him running up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, sweat dripping from his brow. The Star-Spangled Banner crescendos as he reaches the apex. Text flashes across the screen: Paul Ryan, Self-Made Man.
You see, while the rest of us welfare recipients sit at home eating Doritos we bought with food stamps, Paul Ryan has been out there catching fish with his bare hands. Faced with the death of a family member, Paul Ryan "took the path of individual responsibility and maturity"?unlike the rest of us, whom grief would have pushed into the arms of the government.
Did anyone at the Times or the Post stop and say, Wait a minute, are we writing a profile or a fairy tale? Like countless kids across America, Ryan had a fast-food job in high school. He went to college. Surprisingly, when he took an internship on Capitol Hill, they didn't let him start out as a legislator, so he had to deliver mail. Sucking up to big wigs helped him make connections (he was voted "Biggest Brown Noser" in high school), which helped out his political career. He works out and hunts. He loves Ayn Rand. Nothing about these traits or accomplishments indicates that he is any more independent than, say, Barack Obama. But in an attempt to draw a connection between Ryan's ideology and his biography, journalists and politicians cite them as evidence of his extraordinary self-reliance.
But if you wipe the stardust from your eyes, you'll be forced to admit that for all his talk about the free market, Ryan has spent precious little time in it and in fact has benefited from government help more than most. When his father died, Ryan received Social Security payments that helped pay for his college tuition. He attended Miami University, a public institution that receives millions of dollars in federal and state money every year. Since then, Ryan has spent most of his life?15 years, to be exact?on the government's payroll. And as opposed to Mitt Romney, who earned his money in private equity, Ryan married into his fortune. Finally, one shouldn't forget that Ryan took home $20 million in stimulus money for energy efficiency in Wisconsin while protesting the stimulus, and $5.4 million in earmarks in 2008 while protesting earmarks?accomplishments that might have pleased his constituents but don't square with his small-government image. In short, Ryan is only around to warn about the evils of government because of government.Mitt RomneyPratt?Romney familyRyanSurnames
I have a feeling that I?ll be writing this with some regularity over the next three months, but the Romney campaign has released a new, shamelessly dishonest ad attacking President Obama for the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act:
Romney?s ad paints the Medicare cuts as some kind of theft?the money was meant for seniors, but Obama took it away to fund his ?government takeover of health care.?
The truth of the matter is that Obama achieved the bulk of his cuts by reducing costs in Medicare Advantage, a program within Medicare that subsidizes private health insurance plans. Advantage allows seniors to purchase private health insurance plans, with most of the cost covered by Medicare. The program had been overpaying for coverage, and ACA reduces those payments to generate savings. Billions more are saved by reducing reimbursement rates to providers and using Medicare's heft to lower payments to drug companies. These savings were then used to extend the life of Medicare?by eight years, according to the Congressional Budget Office?pay for greater preventative care, and further fund prescription drug coverage. Far from harming seniors, the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act improves Medicare for its beneficiaries.
What makes this especially mendacious is the fact that Paul Ryan includes the same cuts in his budget. I?ll repeat: the only way Ryan can make his budget work is by including Obama's changes to Medicare, even as he promises to end the Affordable Care Act. At the same time that Romney is demogoguing Medicare cuts that have improved the program for seniors?beneficiaries have saved more than $4 billion on prescription drugs since the ACA went into effect?he is hiding the extent to which his running mate supports making those same cuts in order to fund a trillion dollars in new defense spending, and trillions of dollars in new tax cuts.
This gets to a point I?ve made with some regularity on Twitter. Democrats want to protect Medicare?s guarantee of health coverage for seniors. Republicans do not. This highlights an important distinction in the rhetoric of the two parties. When Democrats attack Republicans for gutting Medicare, it?s because they want to maintain the program in much of its current configuration. When Republicans turn the attack around, as they have in this campaign, they?re hiding their intentions for political gain. This isn?t hard to understand, and I wish the press would do more to highlight the dynamic.Healthcare reform in the United StatesMedicareUnited States National Health Care ActMedicare dual eligibleMedicare Prescription DrugImprovementand Modernization ActSocial IssuesHealthPolitics
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The Pentagon has a well-documented history of seeking to influence entertainment that Hollywood produces so that negative portrayals of the United State military are not produced, but the NBC show "Stars Earn Stripes" takes the propagandistic efforts of[...]
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(As Congressman Paul Ryan cracked a joke about him, Tom Nielsen found himself face down on the floor being handcuffed by police. The 71-year-old retired plumber from Kenosha was thrown to the ground, placed in handcuffs, and arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest after objecting to Ryan's plans to gut Social Security and Medicare during his congressman's only public appearance scheduled during the August recess -- a $15 Rotary Club luncheon in West Allis on Tuesda)
I've heard many different descriptions of Rep. Paul Ryan from the media and Beltway pols since last Friday, so I'd like to throw one in the proverbial pot:
He's a typical Republican corporatist who hides behind economic word-salad mumbo-jumbo to get the big payoff for himself (VP candidate and $415,000 in Wall Street donations) and his customer base.
And as for the elderly of America, his position is the same as any other typical conservative you'd see on Fox News: We love seniors, we just want to take away their Medicare and Social Security.
Ronald Reagan ran government at 22 percent of gross domestic product when our population was much younger. Ryan and Romney want to run government at 20 percent of GDP even as the number of Americans on Social Security and Medicare doubles. Even if we slow these programs' growth, it's impossible to shrink the federal role in an aging society this sharply without eliminating vast swaths of what Americans have come to expect from government -- not to mention shortchanging already lagging investments in research and development and infrastructure.
Over time, Ryan's "vision" would decimate most federal activities beyond Social Security, Medicare and defense.
When I asked Ryan last October why he thought -- in his words -- "the historic size of government as a share of GDP, or smaller," was sound policy when we'd shortly be doubling the number of seniors on the biggest federal programs, he replied, "Because we can't keep doing everything for everybody in this country."
There hasn't been enough emphasis put on these words from Ayn Ryan. Now, a Democratic politician or adviser could never get away with it because they aren't allowed to by the commentariat. If Rachel Maddow said these words referring to our seniors, the GOP would plaster them in ads across the country, making it appear that she's married to Obama.
I wonder how our seniors would be served if the AARP gave Rep. Paul Ryan 415,000 greenbacks? I'd say much differently than he's been treating them up to this point. And how has he been treating them, you ask? Well, as Malcolm Tucker would say, 'violent sexual imagery' comes to mind. Ryan, unlike Tucker, doesn't bother to check to see if seniors would even be offended by it.
(vulgar language alert)
Malcolm: In my quest to try and make you understand the level of my unhappiness I'm likely to use an awful lot of what we would call 'violent sexual imagery' and I just wanted to check that neither of you would be terribly offended by that?
Malcolm: You got on the record and off the record mixed up. What would have happened if like George Martin did that? We'd have no f*&king Beatles.
Only a person devoid of compassion and human decency would ever say something so crass to seniors: "Because we can't keep doing everything for everybody in this country."
Conservative policies led us the the Big Economic fail under George Bush and Ryan, but Rep. Paul Ryan can't be bothered with helping those who would suffer the most. Many world cultures revere their elderly and have an obligation to care for them; not so for compassionless conservatism.
Paul Ryan enters the race and our PollTracker Editor Kyle Leighton looks at his impact. [...]
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Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Before looking at the possibilities of losing LGBT equality gains, two recent examples of progress. Both of these steps come after, quite literally, decades of work, by grassroots activists, and organizations (with a growing number of Electeds) at local, state and federal levels.
Army Brigadier General Tammy Smith has become the first openly gay flag officer to come out while currently serving in the U.S. military. She was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in a private ceremony … at the Women?s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. BG Smith received her stars from her wife, Tracey Hepner. …
According to Stars & Stripes
Friday?s … ceremony for Smith wasn?t the first that Hepner has attended, but it was the first where the pair didn?t have to hide any details of their relationship. The pair have been together for more than a decade.
A second example of stepping toward equality occurred with the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee. However much impact party platforms actually have, it is notable that the Committee did ? as expected ? include support of marriage equality, backing the repeal of DOMA, and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. Metro Weekly adds this caution:
Although historic in nature .. the platform plank, which will be voted on by delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. next month, may have limited broader impact.
It remains highly unlikely there will be any federal campaign for marriage equality and that marriage laws, which have almost always been left up to the states, will continue to be debated at the local level.
At Buzzfeed, Chris Geidner writes about additional pro-LGBT elements.
The platform draft addresses both sexual orientation and gender identity in its support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It does not, as the ACLU had hoped, endorse a specific LGBT nondiscrimination bill focused on students. …
Although President Obama has long endorsed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, his administration took fire from advocates … about his decision in April not to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
So, with that bit of recent ?progress made? noted, and even with the cautions related to the platform and Obama?s really rather odd hesitancy regarding federal contractors, the question: Would Obama/Biden be better on LGBT equality than Romney/Ryan? Duh.
If Romney?s position on LGBT ?issues? ? or at least if his willingness to pander to the Righter wing ? are indicated by his VP pick, then the worries about losing some of the gains made during Obama?s first term are understandable, if still speculative. After all, good numbers of LGBTs and allies expected Obama to come into office and take quick and dramatic ?fierce advocate?-like actions. Turns out Mr. Obama likes to work slowly, cautiously, incrementally, and needs a good bit of public pushing and time to evolve. And as with most Electeds, an election year tends to bring out the goodies, too.
As for what we could expect in a Romney / Ryan administration, I wrote earlier, Paul Ryan?s Position on LGBT Rights are abysmal. Romney?s are better, but certainly nothing about which to be queerly proud.
Obviously it?s a guess, but in June the Washington Blade, ran a report that asked, Would President Romney undo pro-LGBT advances?
Many of the pro-LGBT advances that have happened under the Obama administration occurred through changes made by the executive branch rather than through legislation. … The Washington Blade has identified five regulatory changes and 16 sub-regulatory changes enacted by the Obama administration that could be reversed if Romney were elected to the White House. …
Romney hasn?t said he?d rescind ?pro-LGBT regulatory changes,? but of course, what a Campaigner says and an Elected does are frequently different. If Romney / Ryan did want to change regulations
… the Administrative Procedures Act … prohibits a quick change … . Instituting new final regulations repealing these policies would be a multi-year process and require a justification for overturning them other than for political reasons. …
It?s the sub-regulatory initiatives where the most sweeping changes could be made. The time needed to change these would be shorter than the time needed to change more formal regulations, although it would vary from agency to agency and issue to issue. …
The Blade asked HRC if the Obama administration could take steps to ?ensure the changes become more permanent.? The response:
… the sub-regulatory changes could be … upgraded to regulatory changes, but that process would be lengthy and cumbersome.
Meaning, such ?upgrades? are highly unlikely before November. And since Obama didn?t do the ?upgrade? versions in the first place, maybe not that likely in a second Obama term, either.
When Electeds at any level act in ways that result in equality, they deserve credit, as they deserve to be called out when they fail to act, or act in ways that limit equality. Related to LGBT equality, Obama had the opportunities to act more than all other presidents combined because LGBTs and our allies worked like hell, for decades, to get to the point such presidential actions were possible, and because they kept pushing him.
There?s a great deal more work to be done. Among other things, DOMA, with a whole host of state level mini-DOMAs, remain the law. And ENDA remains a bill. Whoever takes the oath on January 21, 2013, LGBT equality advocates will need to keep on working. As an admittedly simplistic framing: if it?s Obama, the work will be to solidify the gains, and keep pushing for more (including at state and local levels). If it?s Romney, the work will be to maintain and solidify the gains, and keep pushing for more (probably especially at the state and local levels).
(Photo via Stars and Stripes)
Who is John Galt?Not me!Guess who asked the federal government to give his constituents some porky socialism from the stimulus bill after he voted against it?Yup. Mr. Ayn Rand himself.Great piece from the Boston Globe:In 2009, as Rep. Paul D. Ryan was railing against President Obama?s $787 billion stimulus package as a ?wasteful spending spree,? he wrote at least four letters to...