The Ottumwa Courier


August 20, 2012

Ryan: The myth of the right’s fiscal prophet

OTTUMWA — In his younger days, tennis legend Andre Agassi uttered the catchphrase “Image is everything” while doing advertisements for Canon Camera.

Much has happened to Agassi since he first mouthed this famous utterance. The tennis bad boy of the 1990s went from being a brash youngster to a grizzled veteran and tennis icon.

But this phrase still rings true in the crazy world of U.S. politics. There are few fields where a person’s record is so detached from his or her public image. Such is the case with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan. If you are not a political junkie — and most Americans are not — you probably consider U.S. Rep. Ryan, R-Wis., to be a principled fiscal hawk with a keen understanding of budgetary statistics and data. Ryan is that rare brand of politician that’s willing to tell Americans the hard truths about our out-of-control spending on entitlement programs. This policy wonk has the courage and soundness of mind to propose the deep budget cuts that are necessary to put America back on the road to fiscal sanity. The problem with this image is that it’s mostly bunk. While Ryan may have wowed many fellow Republicans with his fancy fiscal footwork and predilection for number crunching, the Wisconsin congressman has approved virtually every program that created the deficit in the first place. In an article for the liberal Salon Magazine, Glenn Greenwald wrote that Ryan voted for the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, the Bush tax cuts and the budget-busting Medicare Part D plan. So, Ryan is essentially proposing to fix a budget crisis he helped to create by making deep cuts in federal programs for middle-class Americans.

 And then there is the budget plan Ryan put together as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Among other things, the Ryan budget proposes tax cuts for the wealthy that make the Bush tax cuts look tame in comparison — the cuts are the Bush agenda on steroids that would make Major League Baseball’s most habitual drug users blush. Also, in a symbolic genuflection to Romney and his ilk, the Ryan plan, formally dubbed, the “Road Map for America’s Future” — “promotes savings by eliminating taxes, on interest, capital gains and dividends; also eliminates the death tax.”

“Mitt Romney’s income — more than 20 million each of the past two years comes almost entirely from capital gains on his investments, or from ‘carried interest,’ a cut of Bain Capital profits that are taxed as capital gains (the infamous hedge fund loophole),” Alex MacGillis of the New Republic wrote.

The most ironic part of the budget plan is that it, like many of the programs Ryan has championed, does very little to fix the budget deficit because of the large loss in revenue it would foster. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center estimates the plan would result in $4 trillion loss of revenue in the next decade. Under the Ryan plan, liberal Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman estimates the federal deficit in 2020 would be $1.3 trillion.

But despite an ample amount of evidence that casts doubt on Ryan’s reputation as a fiscal hawk, partisans and self-styled centrists in the media still seem bent on treating him like some kind of fiscal prophet. I have nothing against Ryan personally — he appears to be an affable guy — but his public image simply doesn’t match his record. Furthermore, I’m more than a little concerned about having a Ayn Rand acolyte as vice president.

The one laudable thing Ryan’s plan did was raise hard questions about the long-term sustainability of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But a solution that, according to the Tax Policy Center, cuts the tax rate of the wealthiest 1 percent in half — it also, admirably, cuts taxes for those at the bottom of the economic ladder — while raising taxes for 95 percent of Americans is not acceptable.

If the Romney-Ryan ticket triumphs in this year’s election the newspaper headline should read “America Shrugged.” For the sake of the middle class, I hope this doesn’t happen.

Andy Heintz is a sports writer for the Ottumwa Courier.

Text Only
  • Bullying IS personal

    October 25, 2013

  • 0928 OTT gourds color -T What about fall? Is it just me, or is Christmas coming earlier every year? I feel like I find myself asking this question annually. Now, I love the holiday season, putting up the tree, hanging stockings, shopping for and wrapping presents, Christmas carols and all th

    September 27, 2013 3 Photos

  • Big votes coming up Ottumwans planning to vote in the upcoming city primary and general elections have a couple times left to watch or attend a City Council session. You should, especially if you haven't been keeping up with city issues. Prior to the next council meetin

    September 17, 2013

  • Don't forget the band The other night as the Ottumwa Bulldogs prepared to open their season, I could hear the sounds of another group preparing for their first night of the season. It was the Ottumwa marching band. As I watched them warm up for the game, I thought about w

    September 6, 2013

  • It's time to get smart Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their community. Have I written this before? Perhaps. But it needs stating again and again and again. Ottumwa voters have two important elections approaching: Ottumwa school board seats

    August 30, 2013

  • From Disney to debauchery

    August 30, 2013

  • Saturday Night Live Saturday night liveliness is more like it. Little Max entertained his grandmas in fine fashion during a weekend supper planned by his parents. "We let him sleep so he'd be ready to party," Scott laughed as little Max laughed with his dad. Katy held h

    August 23, 2013

  • 0821 OTT chelsea mug -T Jumping off a mountain It's hard to believe tomorrow is my last day in Ottumwa. As some know or have heard through the grapevine, I've accepted a position as a reporter for The World, a newspaper in Coos Bay, Ore. Friday morning, my mom and I begin the 2,000-mile, 31-hour

    August 20, 2013 1 Photo

  • A relaxing summer movie

    August 15, 2013

  • Late-night TV blues & reviews

    July 29, 2013

AP National