Income inequality has grown exponentially in the United States easily ranking it the highest among developed nations, with most of the widening gap coming between the middle class and richest one percent with the disparity becoming more extreme the further one goes up in the income distribution. In 2012, the gap between the richest 1% and the remaining 99% was the widest it has been since the 1920s with incomes of the wealthiest 1% percent rising nearly 275%, whereas the income of the remaining 99% rose barely 1% in comparison. While President Obama has spent the past year emphasizing the need to address the increasing gap between the rich and the poor and vanishing middle class, Republicans led by Ayn Rand devotee Paul Ryan intend on enacting a replacement 2015 budget that focuses on reforms. If Americans are wary of what Republicans mean by reforms, they have a good reason. Ryan is proposing sweeping reforms on welfare and complete overhauls of all social programs including Head Start, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, housing assistance, and anything helping the poor; or as Ryan calls them the 47% he considers “takers” and “moochers.”
Yesterday Ryan released a 204-page rebuke of the government’s anti-poverty programs that questions the concept of helping poor Americans by deriding initiatives that assist the poor struggling in low-wage jobs; if they have a job. As is usually the case when Republicans talk reform, Ryan specifically cites consolidating and then slashing all anti-poverty programs he claims “created a poverty trap that we’ve got to fix with significant reform.” Regardless of whether Republicans are citing social anti-poverty programs or tax cuts for the rich and corporations; “significant reform” always translates into drastic cuts and Ryan’s report criticizes every aspect of every anti-poverty program Republicans intend to subject to significant reforms.
The Republican report, “The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later,” analyzes eight areas of federal policy Ryan and Republicans lust to “reform” including cash aid, education and job training, energy, food aid, health care, housing, social services, and Veterans benefits. Each of the sections begins with criticism of both state of federal anti-poverty programs that Lyndon Johnson initiated 50 years ago as part of his “war on poverty” Republicans have sought to eliminate to fund tax cuts for the richest 1% of income earners.
The Ayn Rand disciple said his “reform” document “is a precursor not only of our budget but of our larger project to introduce poverty reforms over the course of this year.” The president may focus on inequality because he can’t talk about growth. We’re focused on upward mobility, speaking directly to people who have fallen through the cracks.” It is doubtful that Ryan will actually tell people who have fallen through the cracks of his intent to target programs like food stamps, Medicaid, Head Start, low-income housing and heating assistance, most other social service programs, and low-income tax credits that prevented millions of Americans from perishing due to starvation, exposure, and ill-health. Ryan claimed the Republicans’ comprehensive anti-poverty reforms (Draconian cuts) will coincide with the GOP’s intent to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and impose major cuts to Medicaid.
Ryan’s remark that the President cannot talk about growth is laughable when Obama has proposed several job creation policies, including for Veterans, that Republicans have rejected out of hand as too expensive as they plan large tax cuts for the richest Americans and their corporations. The President just announced a $300 billion infrastructure improvement plan that, although sorely needed, is woefully inadequate and less than one-tenth what the nation requires to bring the richest country on Earth in line with every developed nation in the world. Republicans have rejected every one of the President’s proposals for infrastructure programs in the past because they did not fit their job-killing agenda.
House Republicans still portray Ryan as their fiscal genius, and Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) said “Paul Ryan remains our big-ideas guy, and he’s talking about these issues in human terms.” According to Ryan, his big ideas focusing on human terms include “solutions that solve weaknesses in how the government supports the poor” that a serious round of cuts will solve. In fact, one of the more mysterious aspects of his report is Ryan’s assertion that “poor families face very high implicit marginal tax rates the federal government uses to effectively discourage them from making more money.” That’s right, Ryan who parrots Willard Romney’s assertion the “47% moocher class” do not pay any taxes claims the poor are facing very high tax rates that keep them from making more money at poverty-wage jobs. However, that is not the only scandalous assertion in Ryan’s statement about reforming (cutting) anti-poverty programs.
Ryan’s report cites the “breakdown” of the family as one of the primary reasons so many Americans are afflicted by low-wage jobs that keep them trapped in poverty. It says “the single most important determinant of poverty is that is it a result of broken families.” One wonders if the Republican anti-poverty agenda will include forcing all Americans into traditional marriages, criminalizing single-parent households and divorce, or forcing unmarried women into Christian-imposed chastity belts to ensure they will not be single parents. Ryan also boasted that he learned from a former leader of Britain’s Conservative Party how to “rework our welfare system” that means major cuts to anti-poverty safety nets. The ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, Representative Chris Van Hollen (MD), said Ryan’s report is “simply laying the groundwork to slash social safety net programs” that he identified as “Mitt Romney’s attack on the 47 percent.”
Ryan’s report is an archetype of a class warfare manifesto that would elicit highest praise from Ayn Rand for adhering to the ideology in her fictional work Atlas Shrugged. According to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), “People used to say we couldn’t talk about these issues. Now they have become a framework.” Republicans have been talking about slashing or eliminating anti-poverty programs incessantly since Americans first elected an African American man as President, and the people are well-aware that any Republican framework with the words “reform” and “overhaul” means massive cuts or elimination. Any Republican plan to fight poverty has nothing to do with fighting poverty and everything to do with fighting anti-poverty programs with a view towards completely eradicating them.