Saturday, December 30, 2017

Paul Ryan should be feeling good; seniors, those over 50, and the vulnerable should not

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News, January 3, 2018

.”Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader,  must be feeling good: .His life long quest to become the iimplementor of the Ayn Rand school of political/economic philosophy is half way done with the passage of the tax reduction bill. For his next act he wants is to cut “entitlements”, the social safety net,  Medicare and Medicaid.

The  unpopular tax cut legislation passed and signed by President Trump in December  lopsidedly benefitted the rich and left the middle class with some small change and  with  future generations  paying the interest to bond  holders of  trillion more debt  the “reform” caused. While both houses of Congress are still in the hands of a compliant GOP, Ryan is going to make hay while his sun shines before the 2018 Congressional elections in November, where the House and possibly even the Senate GOP majority is at risk. In so doing, he is  also handing Democrats an issue which will only help them to appeal to usually GOP stalwarts, seniors and about to be seniors.

Ryan’s motivations have been attributed to his  long time love affair with Ayn Rand, a writer of a  1957 seminal book beloved by many a conservative,” Atlas Shrugged.”  Rand, a Russian immigrant, railed against Communist collectivism, and  believed the way for governmental fiscal well-being was based on Paul Ryan is retiring; he will not run again. He was always in pursuit of putting Ayn Rand's philosophy into practice, to prove his ideological hero philosophy worked in practice as well. Rand wrote her books as a response and critique of Russian's form of communism. The old USSR is dead and capitalism won, but capitalism in the US is not even close to Russian communism. It has morphed into a blend of capitalism with one of the most limited social safety nets in the world, but at least it has addressed some of the worst problems the poor and the less abled have faced.

Total laissez faire capitalism has had a result that fed the rich, but not the poor.It was the excesses of the industrial revolution that led to the philosophical rise of communism and the rise of the Soviet communists. Rand then took the extreme opposite tack in her revolt against communism which became the bible of so many of the conservative intellectuals of my early life. Ryan entered Congress with the goal of doing what he could to put Rand into practice via legislation and tax policy. While Catholic Ryan had rejected Rand’s aetheism, he shrugged his shoulders when a 2012 budget he had proposed cut the social safety net to the poor so drastically, the Catholic Bishops wrote …' deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility efforts must protect and not undermine the needs of poor and vulnerable people. (and his budget) ...fails this basic moral test.'” In 2014 he proposed even more dire cuts to the safety net..

However, instead of invoking the Rand philosophy as a reason to cut the safety net and retirees’ benefits, his rationale  now  is that the deficit (he helped enhance) is too  large. On December 6, on a radio talk show he is setting his sights on welfare and seniors and those about to be seniors.  “We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,.. Frankly, it's the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements “ Already the Children’s Health program has left 9 million kids in jeopardy of losing their insurance because  its renewal is still on the GOP chopping block. The tax reduction legislation he helped engineered could trgger $25 billion from Medicare next year.  Over ten years, thirteen million under retirement age  ($4 million next year) will find health insurance unaffordable.

My conservative friends love Ryan’s approach to cutting welfare. In their mythological world, “ those welfare queens are robbing good American taxpayers and ought to get a job. “ We already had welfare reform in the Bill Clinton era that addressed that “get a job”  issue. .. Who is left getting most of “welfare” now? Kids.   Put them to work ?  Here are some statistics for a reality check: Three-quarters of food stamp recipients are families with children. Of the nutrition programs for the poor (8.7 million recipients), 4.3 million are women with children, 2.2 million with infants. National school lunch programs: 30.5 million kids benefit. “  So what do you want to cut, Speaker Ryan?

A reprint of a 4/12/14 Muftic Forum Blog


When Rep. Paul Ryan first proposed weakening the social safety net in a budget proposal in 20,12    ,the Catholic Bishops called it “immoral”.  That was even before Pope Francis reset priorities of the Catholic Church to care about the poor. Ryan’s newest budget passed by the House this month (and DOA in the Senate), reduces food stamps by $125 billion  and restricts access of the near poor to health care by repealing Obamacare and reducing Medicaid.If his first proposal was immoral, the 2014 version  is beyond immoral. Who is speaking for the poor these days?,

 Not The GOP, many of whom oppose even raising the minimum wage, so low now even full time workers live in poverty. Not Republicans who support laws making  it harder for the poor without affordable  and easy access to drivers’ licenses and birth certificates or convenient voting hours to raise their voices .Not the GOP House members including the GOP Colorado Representatives who voted for Ryan budget this month, that would have  cut  food stamps while cutting  taxes for the rich.

Growing  up in Oklahoma in the 1950’s, I  heard many  rationalize opposing government assistance  by blaming  the poor themselves,  opining African Americans  were lazy or undeserving.. Racist attitudes coloring opposition to  welfare still linger into recent times  per  a study of  many public opinion polls reviewed by Arizona State University.

Pres. Johnson’s  War on Poverty  and civil rights legislation were  the reaction  to the injustice and  fueled by the long hot summer riots of the late 1960’s . America learned that the poor could get attention even if they did not have a political voice. But there were also abuses as some gamed the  new welfare system .

 Reality check: Welfare reform in the 1990’s  put more  to work. Those left receiving  food stamps now, per the US Department of Agriculture, are mostly kids  (47 percent are under age 18)and elderly (8%). . Three-quarters of food stamp recipients are families with children.    
 The charity community is  doing what they can , but sometimes the food bank cupboard is bare..Hunger plagues 1 out of 5 kids who do not know where the next meal is coming from and government through school lunch programs and food stamps make up part of the  difference.  

Many of the states with the largest number of poor have  state houses dominated by the GOP yet whose budgets are the most dependent on federal money for social programs. They have  the greatest need and the least will to provide .Leaving   states to use their own resources with federal block grants masking diminished federal contributions to Medicaid, as Ryan’s budget does, would  further divide this country  between the have  and  have nots..

Even the Democratic Party has  focused priorities  on issues supporting the middle class.
The voice of the poor was further overwhelmed by recent Supreme Court decisions that  gave corporations the same right as individuals to contribute political campaigns (Citizen's United), and a recent decision (McCutcheon v FEC) that made it much easier for the wealthy to  spread their  influence around.

So who is left as the strongest voice for the poor? Some in the  faith community and Pope Francis and God bless them.

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