By Doug Porter
Congressman Paul Ryan’s blueprint for the Republican Party budget, rolled out for all to see this morning, presents a sweeping view of the future. (Here’s your copy.) In 10 years, the budget deficit will have disappeared. The progressive income tax structure will be replaced by a two tiered system. Obamacare will be gone.
It will be a dream come true if you happen to be wealthy. From Think Progress:
Estimates showed that past plans amounted to $3 trillion tax giveaways to the wealthy, but because of tax increases that took effect in 2013, Ryan’s newest tax cut is even larger. The federal government in all would lose a total of $7 trillion in revenue, according to Center for American Progress Tax and Budget Policy Director Michael Linden, the majority of which would go to the richest Americans and corporations. Reducing the corporate income tax to 25 percent would provide a tax break of more than $1 trillion; further tax changes would result in even bigger cuts. Trillions more would go to the wealthy.
Once again GOP apologists say that such tax breaks are illusionary as they would be balanced via eliminating tax loopholes. And, once again, there are no tax loopholes specified. It’s going to work like magic. Like trickle down. You remember how well that’s worked, don’t you?
Even more important than its generous contributions to the higher tiers of personal and corporate wealth are the social engineering aspects of the Ryan/GOP plan. Ezra Klein nails it by dubbing the plan “Social engineering with a side of deficit reduction”. From today’s Washington Post:
Here is Paul Ryan’s path to a balanced budget in three sentences: He cuts deep into spending on health care for the poor and some combination of education, infrastructure, research, public-safety, and low-income programs. The Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts, but the military is spared, as is Social Security. There’s a vague individual tax reform plan that leaves only two tax brackets — 10 percent and 25 percent — and will require either huge, deficit-busting tax cuts or increasing taxes on poor and middle-class households, as well as a vague corporate tax reform plan that lowers the rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.
But the real point of Ryan’s budget is its ambitious reforms, not its savings. It turns Medicare into a voucher program, turns Medicaid, food stamps, and a host of other programs for the poor into block grants managed by the states, shrinks the federal role on priorities like infrastructure and education to a tiny fraction of its current level, and envisions an entirely new tax code that will do much less to encourage home buying and health insurance.
Ryan’s budget is intended to do nothing less than fundamentally transform the relationship between Americans and their government. That, and not deficit reduction, is its real point, as it has been Ryan’s real point throughout his career.
Although Republicans introduced nearly three dozen failed bills in Congress last year promising to overturn the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), and although they ran a Presidential campaign on that premise and lost, Rep. Ryan’s new budget promises to repeal health care reform in no less than five instances.
The GOP budget will keep $716 billion in savings and revenue increases built into the President’s plan. Does anybody remember when Ronmey/Ryan campaigned against those as “cuts” to Medicare?
Gone will be all the parts that might actually benefit a patient. That $400 piece of plastic costing $4 that shows up on your hospital bill won’t be subject to onerous government regulation. Medicare won’t be allowed to negotiate with Big Pharma (like the VA does) over drug prices. And those silly rules preventing health insurers from pulling a switcheroo in coverage will be eliminated in our grand, Ryandian future.
Of course there’s one area of government that won’t be affected: defense. Lord knows, we really need all those cold war weapons systems, like the F35 fighters at $133 million each that can’t seem to fly.
The whole premise for the Ryan budget is that only spending cuts can improve the nation’s long term financial picture. Revenue increases of any kind, even those gained by eliminating subsidies to highly profitable industries (like oil), are bad for the economy. Try to point out the faulty assumptions (with silly things like actual history or financial data) underlying these premises and the GOP types simply yell louder.
Let the Poors Eat at Burger King
Our taxpayer dollars were hard at work last week as the San Diego County News Center, funded at $3.1 million annually with a full-time staff of 11, breathlessly broke the news that Seniors, homeless and the disabled could now use their CalFresh (food stamp) benefits to purchase hot meals in local restaurants.
Called the Restaurant Meals Program, it allows CalFresh recipients who have difficulty preparing meals or do not have a place to store and cook food, use their benefits at participating restaurants.
“This program will provide some of our most vulnerable residents with access to hot food,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts, County Boardof Supervisors District 4. “Many of those individuals are without a residence, lack a proper cooking appliance or deal with a handicap that limits their ability to prepare certain foods.”
More than 26,000 CalFresh recipients have been notified they are eligible to purchase prepared foods at participating restaurants. CalFresh recipients who do not qualify for the Restaurant Meals Program are prohibited from purchasing prepared foods.
“Along with providing participants with what may be their only hot meal of the day, the Restaurant Meals Program supports an important component of the business community – restaurants,” said Supervisor Bill Horn, County Board of Supervisors District 5. “I also want to acknowledge the efforts of the California Restaurant Association in helping us create a workable program.”
So I wanted to see just what kind of meals would be available with this news program. It’s accepted at selected BurgerKing, Der Weinerschnitzel and Rally’s locations. I guess that’s one way of getting rid of the folks that are ‘bankrupting’ our safety net.
FYI: A SD CityBeat story last May called attention to just how deluxe the County’s news and information system are:
A CityBeat analysis of the $114,000 contract for the design of the website indicates that the county paid more for CountyNewsCenter.com than KPBS, Voice of San Diego and CityBeat paid for their sites combined.
Some Taxes are More Equal Than Others
As my colleague Andy Cohen reported yesterday, it would appear that the downtown crowd has won a legal battle, as a court (tentatively) ruled that it was indeed legal for hotel owners scattered throughout the city to constitute a special district and to vote amongst themselves with votes weighted by room revenue to impose a tax.
The bottom line here is that the hoteliers have figured out a way to raise taxes without a vote of the people, despite long-standing laws to the contrary. Of course these taxes would need to be for specific purposes. At issue with this ruling was financing for expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.
This is NOT, as many who have commented on the UT-San Diego article about this ruling seem to think, about the ‘not-a-tax’ to fund tourism promotion that Mayor Filner is refusing to sign off on. But the ruling (here) as I read it would appear to cast doubt on the popular assumption that the ‘not-a-tax’ will be found unlawful by the courts.
The implications of this (tentative) court decision are huge, something that Scott Lewis at Voice of San Diego grasped:
And that’s where this gets interesting: What other businesses could seize on this idea and impose a tax on their customers to build something they want?
What’s most interesting about this is not even a majority of hotels had to impose the tax on their customers. Only a majority of the money did. As we discovered last year, one company — one company — represented between 16 percent and 24 percent of the vote in the Convention Center tax hike.
Imagine if one of your neighbors could raise the property tax for your whole block.
I see lots of shiny new toys for the downtown boys in the near future. Too bad we won’t have the revenues to pay for the infrastructure to support them.
Gosh, I Wonder Why Trolley Ridership is Down?
KPBS is reporting this morning on a study by the American Public Transportation Association that found a 5% decrease in passengers riding the San Diego trolley system. Overall transit usage declined slightly, a figure driven by the drop in light rail usage.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Transit System blamed construction projects and the poor rider estimates, pointing out that recently installed automated passengers counters should lead to better reporting in the future.
The decrease in local passengers came despite unpredictable gas prices and is in sharp contrast to national figures showing an overall rise in public transit ridership, with many urban areas posting double-digit increases. The North County Transit District posted a 3.13% increase in users.
Construction? Bad counting? Really? The trolley system doesn’t directly serve any of the urban residential areas outside of downtown (how can they not have done something besides planning for El Cajon Blvd?) whose residents might be most inclined to use it.
And the ‘new’ fare system imposed last year makes round trip rides or even regular usage pretty dammed unfriendly for users. Am I really supposed to go to Albertson’s to buy a round-trip fare card? Or am I really supposed to have all that exact change? Obviously nobody managing the local transit system actually has to (pay to) use it on a regular basis.
Study Says Public Pensions Systems Aren’t So Bad, Afterall
A Sacramento group representing retired public employees is touting a new study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College that says pension “reforms” already in place at the state and local level will restore the state’s public pension funds to pre-financial crisis levels.
The study, “State and Local Pension Costs: Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, and Post-Reform,” looked at changes in 32 plans in 15 states (including CalPERS and CalSTRS). It notes that recently-enacted cuts to public employees “will, over time, improve the financial outlook for plans and help ease their impact on other budget priorities.”
“This study definitely refutes all the Chicken Littles who say that public employees haven’t made enough sacrifices at the state and local level to reduce pension costs,” said Dave Low, Chairman of Californians for Retirement Security. “Whether it has been at the bargaining table in more than 300 jurisdictions or at the state level, public employees have been part of the solution to ensure public pension systems are financially sound.”
On This Day: 1789 – The U.S. Post Office was established. 1959 – The House joined the Senate in approving statehood for Hawaii. 2003 –The Chinese government ordered the Rolling Stones to eliminate four songs from performances in Shanghai and Beijing. The banned songs were “Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Beast of Burden,” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas toDougPorter@