March 12, 2013

A Response to Ryan’s New “Plan for Prosperity”

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Yesterday, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled a spending-and-tax plan that relies on the same proposals of his 2012 campaign to balance the federal budget in 10 years. Despite the fact that the American public largely rejected this plan when we reelected President Obama (and by a large margin, I might add), Ryan seems to think this plan is the right one.

During the presidential race, Ryan held that the election would be a referendum on ideas such as transforming Medicare into a subsidized system of private insurance plans (Obama strongly opposed, Ryan strongly in favor). Thus, at a news conference, Ryan was asked why he would unveil a plan that includes so many elements that voters appeared to reject in November. His response, “So the question is, the election didn’t go our way — believe me I, I know what that feels like — that means we surrender our principles? That means we stop believing what we believe in?”

While I respect Ryan’s strength to stand behind his convictions, I think he’s grossly mistaken. No one is asking Ryan to desert his principles, what we should be requiring, however, is that he recognizes that he is a representative of an electorate that chose a path that is different from his own. For crying out loud, Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes went to Obama.

The United States is a republic — we elect others to make our laws and to serve in our best interests. True, it is an imperfect system where personal agendas, reelection campaigns and varying viewpoints end up distorting the connection between representative and representee. However, at the end of the day the government is elected by the people and for the people, and last November, 51% of the electorate chose President Obama to continue serving as President.

So now it’s four months later and Representative Ryan has decided he should introduce essentially the same budget that may have lost the Republican’s the White House. Ryan’s “Plan for Prosperity” would eliminate the subsidized insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion that are the core of the Affordable Care Act, the Wall Street regulatory law would repealed, high-speed rail programs would be rescinded, agricultural subsidies would be cut by $31 billion, discretionary programs already effected by sequestration cuts would be cut another $249 billion, the corporate tax rate would fall from 35 percent to 25 percent and more.

Oh, and what would Ryan’s “Plan for Prosperity” mean for students? Well, Pell grants would be capped at the current level of $5,645 for 10 years. While Ryan’s plan limits federal funds available for college students and consolidates federal education and job-training programs, it also grants approval to the northern portion of the controversial Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline and increases the military budget by $300 billion over the next decade. To balance the rise in defense spending, he would keep the across-the-board sequester cuts in non-defense spending, and increase those cuts by an extra $700 billion over the next decade.

I am not saying that the Republicans should throw out their own agendas just because a Democrat was elected president. Nor should Senate Democrats or President Obama throw out their agendas because there is a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Both parties need to recognize that the American public elected a divided government, and now that government must work together — and dare I say compromise — in order to legislate effectively in the best interests of the nation.

Original Author: Jaime Freilich