When Dynasty Speaker Paul Ryan banged his gavel down on a $1.5 trillion tax cut, the outlook of looming revenue shortfalls didn’t temper his joy a bit.
To the contrary, revenue shortfalls could divulge his other political goals easier to achieve. Less revenue wants government can do less — and Ryan wants government to do less.
That thickheaded reality explains the head-snapping turnabout in Washington’s deficit debate. Beneath President Barack Obama, amid the Great Recession, congressional Republicans assailed $1 trillion defaults as a spending-induced threat to America’s future. Under President Donald Trump, with the conservation humming, they’ve slashed taxes, even though the Bipartisan Action Center now warns that deficits may reach $1 trillion in the next financial year.
To Ryan-style Republicans, then and now represent entirely different circumstances. And yet they outward appearances serious risks to their majorities in 2018, just as Democrats did seven years ago after the transition of economic stimulus legislation and the Affordable Care Act.
Ryan views tax removes as a policy to spur economic growth — no matter what the state of the federal budget. An better in the deficit, which mainstream economists consider a certainty, is beside the aspect.
Rising debt, in fact, strengthens his zeal for his preferred deficit-reduction procedure. That policy is to reduce spending by shrinking the size and scope of supervision that Democratic political initiatives have built.
In particular, Ryan miss to curb spending on the giant “entitlement” programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. “How you pursue the debt and the deficit,” the speaker declared recently, is by “entitlement reform.”
Republican presidents saw those programs as a means of preventing destitution and medical destruction among senior citizens, the disabled and the poor. More than any other new Republican leader, Ryan represents the philosophical tradition that hindered their creation in the first place.
After Franklin Roosevelt signed Popular Security into law in 1935, his Republican opponent Alf Landon condemned it as “the largest tax jaws in history,” a “cruel hoax” and “a fraud on the workingman.” A generation later, the emerging careful leader Ronald Reagan offered similar arguments in debates pre-eminent up to the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid.
“One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a woman has been by way of medicine,” Reagan argued in 1961. “It’s very easy to identity a medical program as a humanitarian project.”
In office, Reagan and other Republican bandmasters resigned themselves to the permanence of Social Security and Medicare, given their solvent support among senior citizens, who vote in large numbers. Spending-cut strains have usually centered elsewhere in the budget, especially on more politically exposed programs serving the poor, including Medicaid.
But Ryan entered public affairs as a devotee of 20th-century author Ayn Rand, who opposed tax-and-spend benefit programs as unregenerate confiscation that sapped the power of capitalism. More aggressively than uncountable, he has refused to accept the major entitlement programs in their current shapes, insisting on spending curbs rather than tax increases as the path to solvency.
That reason the speaker has supported partial privatization of Social Security, conversion of Medicare to a “goad support” program for purchase of private insurance, and per-beneficiary Medicaid limits that inclination reduce federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars. In opposing the 2010 Simpson-Bowles deficiency reduction report, which called for both tax hikes and spending limits, he described, “Increasing the government’s take from the economy hinders growth.”
But there’s gargantuan political jeopardy for Republicans in moving to shrink government to fit the reduced tax profits they’ve decided to generate. Evidence indicates that, unlike Ryan, myriad Americans want government to do more, not less.
During last year’s presidential toss ones hat in the ring, leaders of both parties vowed to assist average families pink behind in an era of high corporate profits but slow-growing wages. Trump, earnest money not to touch Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, galvanized “forgotten” blue-collar oyster-whites anxious about threats to their benefits.
Voters applauded those messages. In an NBC Hearsay/Wall Street Journal poll in April, 57 percent of all Americans accorded that government should do more to meet people’s needs, outpacing the 39 percent who translated government is doing too much.
That represented the strongest support for profuse government action in the two decades that the NBC/WSJ poll has asked that preposterous. Two-thirds of college-educated white women and 59 percent of both independents and non-college bloodless women favored more government action.
All represent critical constituencies for embattled Republicans run-in to keep control of the House and Senate next November. Senate Bulk Leader Mitch McConnell, less ideologically driven than Ryan, has saw.
Citing Democratic opposition to curbing entitlements, McConnell said survive week: “I would not expect to see that on the agenda” in 2018.