Republicans unveil Pledge to America, but where was Paul Ryan?

WASINGTON — Why wasn’t Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the top Republican on the House Banking Committee and a founder of the GOP’s “young guns” program, present at the much-anticipated rollout Thursday of the House Republicans’ campaign platform, the “Pledge to America”?

It may be nothing. Congressman Ryan’s spokesman, Kevin Seifert, told the Monitor that “it was just a matter of scheduling. He had some prior commitments.” He added that Ryan was involved in the writing of the preamble and had also weighed in on the document as a whole.

But reaction in the conservative blogosphere has been less than enthusiastic — one columnist called it a “pledge to do nothing” — and Ryan’s absence raised questions as to whether one of the GOP’s rising stars is truly happy about the most important GOP document of the campaign season.

Ryan is the go-to guy among Republicans on fiscal policy, and given the pledge’s central focus on reining in government spending, preserving the Bush tax cuts, and repealing health-care reform, it seemed logical that he would be there. Indeed, he was present on morning news shows Thursday, talking up the pledge’s features – but also lowering expectations about what can be accomplished if the Republicans do retake control of Congress, given that the Democratic President Obama will still be in office come January.

“We have to recognize that we’re going into – if we get the majority – an era of divided government and so we want to talk about deliverables,” Ryan said on CNN Thursday morning.

Silent on entitlements

Notably missing from the pledge was much discussion about the future of government entitlements, namely Social Security and Medicare, which are major drivers of a looming fiscal crisis. In his own plan, called the Roadmap for America’s Future, Ryan has been a strong advocate for the use of the free market in reforming entitlements, proposing introduction of private investment accounts into Social Security and turning Medicare into a voucher program.

When President Bush proposed partial privatization of Social Security after his reelection in 2004, the Republican-controlled Congress didn’t even take it up. Ryan is now the leading congressional champion of the concept. But on Thursday, he suggested that while there is an ongoing discussion on the future of entitlements, the pledge perhaps wasn’t the place for much detail along those lines.

“We want to talk about aspirations and the key first steps we need to take to get this country back on track,” Ryan said. “That’s why we’re talking about cutting and controlling spending, preventing big tax increases which will cost us jobs and slow down the economy, and just cleaning up the mess that has become the way Congress operates these days.”

‘Wasted opportunity’?

Most Republicans are fine with the pledge – in some ways, a 2010 version of former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s vaunted 1994 Contract with America, which preceded the last GOP House takeover – though some conservatives have balked. Blogger Erick Erickson of calls it “an unmitigated spectacle of wasted opportunity,” starting with the pledge’s lack of a ban on earmarks. Conservative columnist David Frum called it a “pledge to do nothing,”

“Here is the GOP cruising to a handsome election victory,” Mr. Frum writes in Canada’s National Post. “Did you seriously imagine that they would jeopardize the prospect of victory and chairmanships by issuing big, bold promises to do deadly unpopular things?”

One happy constituency, post-pledge, may be the White House. Obama and Co. have been trying all election season to portray the coming midterms as a choice, not a referendum (on them). Now the choice has been laid out in black and white. Still, the lack of specificity in the pledge may make it less useful as a campaign foil than the Democrats might have liked.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/24/2010 - 10:24 am.

    Ryan might actually have proposed something specific, and that would get people upset.
    As it is, the Republican ‘Pledge’ is the usual something-for-nothing magical thinking.

  2. Submitted by Shirley Gallagher on 09/24/2010 - 10:37 am.

    Paul Ryan was on Cnn trying to sale his GOP PLAN. I hope its not the same plan i read and print in Jul. or AUG.

    Ryan’s Roadmap Loses $2 Trillion In Revenue, Even Though 90% Of Americans Would Pay Higher Taxes
    When Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently released his Roadmap for America’s Future — a plan which purports to balance the federal budget over the next few decades without tax increases — conservatives leapt to embrace it. “I think it’s fabulous, it’s a great template for everyone that’s not just relying on smoke and mirrors,” said former Congressional Budget Office Director and McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin. “Halting America’s slide into bankruptcy and economic stagnation will require bold solutions like Rep. Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future,” added Rep. Tom Price (R-GA).

    The plan relies on essentially privatizing Social Security and Medicare, while at the same time repealing the estate and corporate taxes and instituting a national sales tax (akin to a value-added-tax) of 8.5 percent. And while no marginal tax rates would be increased, according to a new report, the design of the plan and the taxes that Ryan leans on would shift the tax burden down the income scale, resulting in an overwhelming majority of Americans ultimately paying more in taxes than they do would under President Obama’s plans. Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) ran the numbers and found that under Ryan’s proposal:

    – Federal taxes would be lower for the richest 10 percent, and higher for all other income groups, than they would be if President Obama’s proposals were enacted.

    – The bottom 80 percent of taxpayers would pay about $1,700 more, on average, than they would if President Obama’s proposals were enacted.

    – The richest one percent would pay about $211,300 less on average than they would if President Obama’s proposals were enacted.

    – The poorest 20 percent would pay 12.3 percent of their income more than what they would pay under the President’s proposal, while the richest one percent would pay 15 percent of their income less than they would pay under the President’s proposal.

    This shift in tax burden not only would force the middle- and lower-classes to pony up far more than the rich, but it would also result in the government collecting $2 trillion less over a decade than it otherwise would have. “It’s difficult to design a tax plan that will lose $2 trillion over a decade even while requiring 90 percent of taxpayers to pay more. But Congressman Ryan has met that daunting challenge,” CTJ wrote.

    We’re already in an era in which the difference in tax burden between the wealthy and the middle class is smaller than at any time in history. Plus, as recently released IRS data shows, at the peak of the last economic cycle (2007) incomes for the top 400 households were at a record high while the taxes that they paid fell to a record low. (Of course, we would have known this earlier if the Bush administration hadn’t blocked access to the data on the top 400 taxpayers, which Obama once again opened up.) Ryan’s plan would exacerbate these trends.

    To his credit, Ryan does try to grapple with long-term deficits (unlike most Republicans) and the Roadmap is a terrifyingly honest assessment of conservative priorities. But to take an already inequitable system and shift the burden further down is completely unacceptable, and it shows what passes for “fabulous” and “bold” in conservatives circles.

    3 Responses to “Ryan’s Roadmap Loses $2 Trillion In Revenue, Even Though 90% Of Americans Would Pay Higher Taxes”

  3. Submitted by Shirley Gallagher on 09/24/2010 - 10:41 am.

    The Republican’s Roundtable group making these decision.
    Who Is Sitting At The GOP’s Economic Roundtable?
    House Republicans, “promising not to be flat-footed on efforts to revive the economy,” are preparing what they’ve called a “one-two punch” this week, in an attempt to counter the jobs summit that is being held at the White House tomorrow. With the CBO report yesterday showing that the stimulus package — derided by Republicans for months — has saved or created between 600,000 and 1.6 million jobs, the GOP is trying to roll out a jobs plan that it can call its own.

    The administration’s summit will feature “more than 100 business, union and nonprofit leaders and economists,” so House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has organized an parallel economic roundtable, to provide a platform “for economists who have a different perspective on how Obama’s agenda has affected the economy.”

    So who is the GOP betting on to design policies adequate for combating the effects of the great recession? Mostly former Bush administration and McCain campaign staffers, who have advocated disastrous tax and budget policies. Here’s a rundown:

    Bush Tax Cut Architect Larry Lindsey: Lindsey was Director of the National Economic Council under President George W. Bush, and Bush’s “closest economic adviser.” Lindsey was the architect of the Bush tax cuts, which he characterized as an “insurance policy” against a recession. He responded to charges that the cuts overwhelmingly favored the wealthy by saying “”I don’t think that jealousy is what matters to the American people.”

    Deficits Double-Talker Douglas Holtz-Eakin: Despite being a former CBO Director, during the campaign, Holtz-Eakin repeatedly asserted that McCain’s economic plans would balance the budget (which wasn’t true) and that McCain would cut taxes for everybody in America (also not true). Since leaving the campaign trail, he has been pushing the absurd notion that repealing the estate tax would create millions of jobs.

    Kevin “Dow 36,000″ Hassett: Hassett was chief economic adviser for McCain’s 2000 presidential bid, and advised both the Bush ‘04 and McCain ‘08 campaigns. He is best known for penning the 1999 book Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting from the Coming Rise in the Stock Market, which predicted a huge surge in stock prices. As of last night, the dow stood at 10,485, after falling below 7,000 for a time.

    Diana “No Recession” Furchtgott-Roth: In December 2007, when the U.S. was already in a recession, Furchtgott-Roth penned a piece saying that it was unlikely that a U.S. recession would occur. She also claims that medical bankruptcy is a “myth,” despite the fact that “the proportion of all bankruptcies attributable to medical problems has increased by 50%” since 2001.

    Budget-Buster Jim Capretta: Capretta was President Bush’s Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and was the lead official on the budget-busting Medicare Part D plan.

    Stimulus Critic Alex Brill: Brill served on President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers and blasted both the stimulus package for not working (though it is) and President Obama’s tax plan for raising taxes on the middle class (which it isn’t).

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/24/2010 - 12:26 pm.

    Ryan isn’t really a republican he just plays one on TV.

    His reform ideas are more from the libertarian wing of the party and it would serve no purpose to propose them at this time when there’s no chance of them getting passed with a democrat president in the White House.

    If the GOP takes over one or both houses of congress, you may see Ryan’s ideas starting to be sold as part of the 2012 campaign to dump Obama, but no sooner.

  5. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 09/24/2010 - 03:09 pm.

    Well, back in ’94, they called it “contract with America” … or was it ‘on’ America? And now it is a pledge. Sorta like wayward spouses making all kinds of promises and pleas to save their marriage.

    Have they been working on this for the last two years or is it an ad-hoc, last ditch effort? If so, it sounds like it is pretty lame and not radical enough for those in the TP tent.

  6. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/24/2010 - 07:48 pm.

    I’d love to criticize the Republicans for not laying out a concrete plan to reduce the deficit, but President Obama and the Dems are waiting until after the election to unveil their deficit reduction plan, so it’s a wash between the parties.

    It’s just really amazing to me that neither party has laid out a deficit reduction plan in an election in which voters say the deficit is a top concern. Letting the tax cuts for people earning $250,000 a year expire cuts the deficit by $70 billion a year for 10 years – nice, but not nearly good enough. The Republicans’ much heralded pledge of a “$100 billion decrease in non-defense discretionary spending” means little given the lack of specifics and then means absolutely nothing at all given the Republicans’ goal of extending all tax cuts and no doubt increasing defense spending, meaning that at best the net deficit reduction is more or less the same as the Democrats’ limited tax increase.

    Trillion-dollar deficits matched with plans to decrease spending or increase revenue by at most $100 billion a year. Democracy in action, folks….

  7. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 09/24/2010 - 09:15 pm.

    @ #6 Richard, it is true. Nobody in either major party brings up the national debt or discusses balancing the budget. I don’t even think they are topics set on anybody’s back-burner right now. And yet those are the areas where everything about the economy culminates. As for the Tea Party, these matters are probably too high-brow and not at all slogan-friendly.

  8. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/24/2010 - 10:02 pm.

    That seems to be the case JJ…

    Most of the problems facing America will require solutions—whether it be increasing the retirement age, cutting Medicare, or raising taxes—that cause real pain. Eventually, one of the parties will have to inflict it.

  9. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/25/2010 - 06:11 am.

    Republicans (and some Democrats) never ever look at the monster our defense budget has become.

    Add to this the militarization of the State
    Department and its coming use of mercenaries at sort-of embassies-cum-miltary-bases in Africa and we are talking ever more spending, most of it on the War on Terror that is currently increasing terror wherever we go.

    It’s not entitlement spending that should be cut.

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