Paul Ryan brought his teleprompter to Cleveland yesterday, delivering a speech on one of his favorite subjects: "Restoring the Promise of Upward Mobility in America's Economy." In effect, it was a chance for the far-right congressman to defend his governmental worldview, making the case that poverty would decline and prosperity would flourish if only federal policies were more in line with his vision.
The transcript of the remarks is online, but there are a couple of things that jumped out at me. Most notably, Ryan seemed eager to stress his approach to welfare.
"[A] Romney-Ryan administration will clearly restore those parts of the welfare-reform law that have been undone or weakened. We will do this for the sake of millions of Americans who deserve to lead lives of dignity and freedom.
"We will also apply other lessons from welfare reform's success.... Mitt Romney and I want to apply this idea to other anti-poverty programs, such as Medicaid and food stamps. The federal government would continue to provide the resources, but we would remove the endless federal mandates and restrictions that hamper state efforts to make these programs more effective."
It's important to understand how ridiculous this is. For one thing, nothing in welfare law has been undone or weakened, so there's nothing to "restore." For another, Ryan's approach to Medicaid is to gut it in such a way that would deprive millions of already struggling Americans of basic care.
But pay particular attention when Ryan talks about his approach to "other anti-poverty programs." He insists Washington "would continue to provide the resources," but that's where the problem lies.
In reality, Ryan's proposed budget plan, which was heartily endorsed by Mitt Romney, is simply brutal towards the poor and working families. The plan identifies $5.3 trillion in nondefense budget cuts over the next decade, and nearly two-thirds of the savings come from programs intended to help Americans of limited means.
As the CBPP's Robert Greenstein put it, "[T]he Ryan budget would impose extraordinary cuts in programs that serve as a lifeline for our nation's poorest and most vulnerable citizens, and over time would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their health insurance or become underinsured." He added that Ryan's plan "would cast tens of millions of less fortunate Americans into the ranks of the uninsured, take food from poor children, make it harder for low-income students to get a college degree, and squeeze funding for research, education, and infrastructure."
When Ryan offers assurances about "providing resources," he actually means far fewer resources, leaving families that are already struggling to get by with even less. It's not a recipe for "upward mobility"; it's a callous policy that leaves millions behind.
This stood out, too.
"Look at the road we are on, with trillion-dollar deficits every year. Debt on this scale is destructive in so many ways, and one of them is that it crowds out civil society by drawing resources away from private giving. Even worse is the prospect of a debt crisis, which will come unless we do something very soon."
To say Ryan has a credibility problem here is a severe understatement. We have "trillion-dollar deficits every year"? Yes, though the deficit has decreased by over $300 billion in Obama's first term, and Ryan's own budget plan would continue to run trillion-dollar deficits over the next several years.
The debt "crowds out civil society by drawing resources away from private giving"? If there's any evidence to support this claim, Ryan is keeping it well hidden.
"Even worse is the prospect of a debt crisis, which will come unless we do something very soon"? Putting aside the notion that an actual "debt crisis" comes with high interest rates and difficulties in borrowing -- and we have the opposite -- what Ryan continues to forget is his role in creating the very mess he's whining about.
We know exactly how the deficit got this large: the drivers were Bush-era tax cuts, two wars, Medicare expansion, and a Wall Street bailout. Who voted for all of these measures? Paul Ryan.
And even if we ignore his track record, Ryan's budget plan doesn't actually reduce the debt, it simply redistributes wealth, slashing investments in priorities he doesn't like, and redirecting funds to the top.