After months of feeling pretty dour, Democrats seemed to start walking with a spring in their step last week. The fact that Affordable Care Act enrollment managed to exceed projections, giving the party a much-needed policy and political victory, gave Dems something to brag about for a change.
And as Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noted, it was soon followed by another development that brought smiles to Democratic faces: the release of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan.
”[The political conditions are] changing. If you’ve been around awhile, and I’ve been around awhile, you can sense it,” Durbin said. ”You’re not going to turn away seven or 10 million people from insurance coverage – doesn’t work anymore. And then comes Ryan. Thank you, thank you Congressman Paul Ryan, for reminding us what Republicans would do if they had control.”
How excited are Democrats about the far-right Ryan plan? President Obama devoted much of his weekly address over the weekend to highlighting its provisions, making the case that it “shrinks opportunity and makes it harder for Americans who work hard to get ahead.”
“The Republican budget begins by handing out massive tax cuts to households making more than $1 million a year. Then, to keep from blowing a hole in the deficit, they’d have to raise taxes on middle-class families with kids. Next, their budget forces deep cuts to investments that help our economy create jobs, like education and scientific research.“Now, they won’t tell you where these cuts will fall. But compared to my budget, if they cut everything evenly, then within a few years, about 170,000 kids will be cut from early education programs. About 200,000 new mothers and kids will be cut off from programs to help them get healthy food. Schools across the country will lose funding that supports 21,000 special education teachers. And if they want to make smaller cuts to one of these areas, that means larger cuts in others.“Unsurprisingly, the Republican budget also tries to repeal the Affordable Care Act – even though that would take away health coverage from the more than seven million Americans who’ve done the responsible thing and signed up to buy health insurance. And for good measure, their budget guts the rules we put in place to protect the middle class from another financial crisis like the one we’ve had to fight so hard to recover from.”
In this sense, Paul Ryan didn’t just release a budget plan for no particular reason; he also packaged a Democratic election-year message for the rest of 2014. No wonder Dick Durbin is so eager to thank him.
On a related note, late last year there were quite a few reporters who seemed to buy into the notion that Ryan had somehow transformed himself into an anti-poverty crusader. It seems safe to conclude at this point that they were played.
Some 69 percent of the cuts in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s new budget would come from programs that serve people of limited means, our forthcoming report finds. These disproportionate cuts – which likely account for at least $3.3 trillion of the budget’s $4.8 trillion in non-defense cuts over the next decade – contrast sharply with the budget’s rhetoric about helping the poor and promoting opportunity.
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted, the cuts focus on several key areas – health coverage, food assistance, college affordability, etc. – and the estimates are almost certainly understating the case. The CBPP report noted, “In cases where the Ryan budget cuts funding in a budget category but doesn’t distribute that cut among specific programs – such as its cuts in non-defense discretionary programs and its unspecified cuts in mandatory programs – we assume that all programs in that category, including programs not designed to assist low-income households, will be cut by the same percentage.”
The reports about Ryan becoming a “champion of the poor” seemed off-base at the time, and quite silly now.