Thursday, June 23, 2016

Why Paul Ryan is the most over-rated intellect on Capitol Hill

ThinkProgress.com takes a very hard and harsh look at Ryan's policy proposals.

... Speaker Ryan’s reputation for wonkitude is not deserved. Indeed, his proposals typical follow a familiar pattern — a pattern Ryan repeated on Wednesday with a package of health reforms Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young described as a plan to “replace 20 million people’s health insurance with 37 pages of talking points.” Ryan offers sweeping, ambitious ideas that would radically transform the fundamentals of America’s social contract. Then, when genuine policy wonks point out that Ryan’s numbers don’t add up, or that his ideas would have absurd consequences, Ryan often responds with a new proposal that is just like the first — only vaguer.

If details enable Ryan’s opponents to discredit his ideas, then Ryan defends himself by refusing to offer details. As Tara Culp-Ressler notes, Ryan’s latest set of health care proposals “doesn’t include information about exactly how many people would be covered, exactly how much the proposal would cost, or exactly how much assistance Americans would receive in the form of tax credits to help them buy insurance.”

Paul Ryan’s ambition, in other words, is matched only by his innumeracy. He builds cathedrals to dyscalculia, and fills them with a worshipful press corps. But his is a false faith, resting upon ideas that do not withstand scrutiny.

Here are two examples.

Privatize (Communize) Social Security

[George W. Bush intended] to partially privatize Social Security — a proposal that proved wildly unpopular and that never became law.

Yet, despite this idea’s unpopularity, a junior congressman named Paul Ryan believed that he’d amassed even more capital than a recently elected President of the United States. Ryan’s plan to privatize Social Security was so ambitious it made the Bush White House blush. President Bush’s director of strategic initiatives, Peter Wehner, labeled the plan “irresponsible.”

The Ryan Social Security plan would have allowed the average worker to shift about half of their contributions to Social Security into a private account, or about 6.4 percent of their earnings. These funds would then be invested into a mix of stocks and bonds until the worker retired, at which point the money in this account would be used to purchase an annuity.

...

It turns out that, if you take 6.4 percent of every worker’s paycheck who participates in this program, you wind up with a whole lot of money. In fact, you wind up with so much money that, if you invest these funds in stocks and bonds, the sheer mass of these investments will eventually push all other investors out of the market. As Dylan Matthews explains, under Ryan’s Social Security plan, “investments in the stock and bond markets would skyrocket such that by 2050, every single stock or bond in the United States would be owned by a Social Security account. This would mean that the portfolio managers at the Social Security Administration would more or less control the entire means of production in the United States.”

Paul Ryan set out to inject more capitalism into America’s core entitlement program, and he wound up proposing a plan that would literally transform the United States into a communist nation. ...

Destroy Medicare

The core of Ryan’s Medicare [2011] proposal is a plan to eliminate traditional Medicare, a government-run health insurance program for seniors, and replace it with a voucher that seniors can use to help purchase a private health plan. Though Ryan’s proposal would have delayed implementation of the plan by 10 years, the immediate impact of the plan, once it did take effect, would have been to massively increase out-of-pocket costs for American seniors ...

By 2022, the healthcare expenditure by a 65-year old would double, said the Congressional Budget Office. (See the ThinkProgress report for a graphic version.)

... Ryan’s latest health care package is at war with itself. It rails against top-down decrees from Washington, all while imposing a structure on states that would effectively neuter their insurance laws. And it’s only the latest in a comedy of errors that includes a proposal to phase out Medicare and an accidental effort to nationalize the means of production. Nor are these the only examples of Ryan’s allergic response to math — we haven’t even discussed the multi-trillion dollar “magic asterisk” Ryan relies upon to pay for his tax proposals.

The conclusion:

It’s time to stop treating this man like he’s a policy wonk. Or even like he knows anything at all about how America’s policy infrastructure works.

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