By now it’s clear that the Republican Party’s blatant contempt for the majority of Americans need not be an obstacle to their electoral success. Whether it’s mandating vaginal probes for women, ordering doctors to lie to their patients, illegally gutting labor unions, or cutting Medicare, the GOP hasn’t been squeamish about pushing its regressive agenda on a populace that handed them major victories in 2010 at the federal and state levels. It’s actually kind of impressive, in a deranged sort of way.
You have to hand it to them. Three years after teetering on the brink of national irrelevance thanks to policies that turned the country into a smoldering pile of fiscal ruin, the GOP has rebranded itself as the party of the everyman, relentlessly crusading against spendthrift liberals looking to levy more taxes on hardworking Americans. And to show how serious they are about changing the ways of Washington, the Republicans have largely stood pat with the same people who spearheaded a nearly decade-long orgy of profligacy that would put a million Kim Kardashians to shame.
One of those same people is Wisconsin representative, House Budget Committee chairman, and Eddie Munster doppelganger, Paul Ryan. In Congress since 1999, Ryan is one of those “fiscally responsible” Republicans who in the last decade helped blow the nation’s deficits into the mesosphere. Like so many other congressional Republicans, he voted for both rounds of the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq war resolution, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, and the Troubled Asset Relief Program bank bailout.
But somewhere between the financial crash of 2008 and January 20, 2009, Ryan and his conservative colleagues got religion, and pledged to have that “adult conversation” about the deficit that they say Americans were ready to have. Just as he did in 2011, Ryan last week proposed a budget that he touted as a bold agenda that is no less than a "moral obligation" to right the country’s fiscal ship. It was passed by the Republican-controlled House, and from there it will go nowhere.
Ryan’s plan is bold, as it resembles the budget of a banana republic desperate to attract foreign investment more than that of a functioning democracy. Most notably, the budget:
- Eliminates Medicare by converting it into a sliding scale voucher system.
- Cuts Medicaid spending by turning it into a block grant program that will hammer states
- Lowers the corporate tax rate to 25% and consolidates the current six individual income brackets into two, 25% and 10%
- Cuts Pell (college) grants
How do the American people feel about this? No major polls have been taken since Ryan introduced his budget for this year, but one imagines public opinion is hardly much different from what it was less than a year ago when an ABC News/ Washington Post poll showed large majorities at odds with major provisions from Ryan’s very similar 2011 budget.
In that poll, 69% opposed any cuts to Medicaid, with 52% strongly opposing them; 78% opposed cuts to Medicare, with 65% strongly opposing them; 65% also opposed any changes to the program; 72% favored raising taxes on annual incomes of $250,000 or more, with 54% strongly supporting them.
None of this is to say the country should be run in exact accordance with majority opinion, but the fact is that the Republican Party is way out of step with most Americans. That they manage to win elections is a testament to their marketing ability, as well as the failure of the Democrats to advance serious proposals that would positively impact that great “silent majority” that abhors the central tenets of modern conservatism.