‘Ryan Plan’ Grounded in Fantasy

by Tyler Murphy
Guest Columnist

*Editor’s Note: Tyler Murphy graduated from Transylvaina in 2010 and was a former staff columnist for The Rambler.

Many pundits use the term “political theater” to indicate the dramatic way in which politicians often propose legislation, grandstand and play to the cameras of an eager national press corps.

One need not look further than the recent battles of the budget to understand why such cynical rhetoric often holds legitimacy. Indeed, if the bill room of Congress had a fairy tale section, the budget proposal introduced last week by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would serve as the Walt Disney of Washington, complete with a snazzy YouTube video and bound “blueprint” that boldly proclaims, “The Path to Prosperity.”

Beyond theatrics, though, Ryan’s proposal is pure fiction. It’s a sad attempt to sell century-old failed economics to a public largely dissatisfied with Washington in general and our budget woes in particular. He proposes to simultaneously cut taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans while cutting the deficit and paying down the national debt.

Ryan calls for massive cuts to entitlement programs and seeks to privatize Medicare, rendering some 34 million seniors unable to afford the skyrocketing costs of health care. The proposal would further burden already cash-strapped states by converting Medicaid-matching funds to block grants, which would require states to make up the difference in cost. States will undoubtedly be forced to transfer this burden to working and low-income families by raising taxes and cutting state benefits.

In addition to these spending cuts, Ryan advocates cutting corporate taxes and income taxes on the wealthiest Americans to the lowest levels since the Great Depression. A report issued by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates a total revenue loss from these tax cuts of $2.9 trillion over the next decade.

While Ryan uses nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates in his proposal to highlight the mounting budget deficit, he ignores the fact that the growing deficit is exacerbated by the permanent extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, which is an integral pillar of his proposal. According to the CBO, the Ryan plan would introduce unprecedented cuts that would be “difficult to sustain” over the “long term.”

Even more dubious, Ryan claims that his massive cuts would create a wellspring of new employment. Relying on data from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, Ryan originally indicated unemployment would reach a mere 2.8 percent in 2021 — a level never seen in 60 years. The Federal Reserve estimates the lowest unemployment rate compatible with price stability in today’s economy is between 5 and 6 percent.

Ryan’s plan is grounded in the absurd. In the last century, we’ve learned that corporate tax cuts do not automatically equate to economic growth. Yet Ryan’s plan is rooted in the assumption that such deep cuts will elicit a wave of unprecedented economic growth and job creation. If enacted, his proposal would shrink the government to unrecognizable and unsustainable levels — even worse than before the Great Depression.

So if you’re looking for some fun fiction to read with the kids, stick to the Disney classics, because Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” may be just too fanciful for young minds.

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