Pathway to Prosperity: Taking from the Poor and Giving it to the Rich

By Richard Thayer

I don’t mean to sound partisan, but the Republican party seems to have a thing for rich people. Have you noticed?

Take for example the Republican party’s wing-ding of a budget proposal that was unveiled to great fanfare recently. Some called it politically courageous, others have said it’s radical and smart; Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson (any relation to Homer?), the chairs of the president’s commission on the national deficit, have hailed it as “a serious, honest, straightforward approach to addressing our nation’s enormous fiscal challenges.”

Talk about misdirected hyperbole.

At the other end of the spectrum, it has been called pure fantasy, the product of an overactive imagination soaked in Red Bull.

The Republicans, many of whom are millionaires and most of whom are supported by even wealthier millionaires, are touting this work of budetary genius as “The Pathway to Prosperity.”

Whether or not it’s actually a pathway to prosperity depends on one’s perspective.

If you’re rich, working on becoming rich, or are working for someone who’s rich and have high hopes of getting a piece of the action, then you may very well see this plan as courageous, bold, honest, wonderful, and the greatest thing since the McRib.

Ah, but if you’re poor, or are headed in that direction, or if you’re old, or are planning on being old one day, then The Pathway to Prosperity may not be to your liking.

Once upon a time the unveiling of a proposal like this would have been considered sheer foolishness and wouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance in Hell of becoming a law. But with last year’s mid-term elections and the growing popularity of the wing-nuts in the Tea Party, foolishness has become popular again. I say again, because it was popular for the eight long years that George W. Bush was president.

Now, after a shorter breather,  it’s back in vogue.

Thanks to a Republican majority in the House, anything goes today.

There are a number of reasons why Paul Ryan’s budget proposal is a very bad idea.

For example, Ryan’s proposal would convert the Medicaid program into a block grant program. A what? This would mean that each state would be provided with limited grants for those individuals at the bottom of the economic ladder to help with their medical expenses. Once the grants are maxed out (thus the term “limited”), the individuals would have to come up with the money or do without.

Medicare would be privatized by handing it over to the big insurance providers. This is what is often referred to as allowing the fox to guard the hen house. This generally winds up being a great plan for the fox and a real bummer for the chickens.

Another imbedded jewel in Ryan’s crown would be a huge tax cut for the wealthy, those making over a quarter of a million dollars annually. Jonathan Chait, writing in The New Republic says of the plan:

“Ryan’s level of cutting goes far beyond what’s needed to preserve (Medicaid and Medicare), and it does so in order to clear room for a very large, regressive tax cut. He is making a choice–not just cut Medicare to save Medicare, but also to cut Medicare in order to cut taxes for the rich.”

Under Ryan’s prosperity proposal, the elderly and the disabled would shoulder an increased responsibility for medical coverage. In the meantime, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would be made permanent while ending estate taxes for the millionaires and billionaires.

Evidently the wealthy need a break worse than the elderly and the poor.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Taken together, its proposals would produce the largest distribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history, while increasing poverty and inequality more than any measure in recent times and possibly in the nation’s history.”

This is known in some circles as progress.

Be careful of how things are labeled. Just because this proposal is labeled “The Pathway to Prosperity” doesn’t make it so. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

As David Corn writes in his Mother Jones article: “(Rep. Ryan) is boldly (bravely?) reinforcing the fundamental stereotype of Republicans: Screw the poor, aid the rich….Though it may be politically gutsy to call for altering a popular program like Medicare, it is hardly courageous to mug the poor and the elderly to underwrite a tax bonanza for the wealthy.”

Let your congressperson know how you feel about Ryan’s plan.


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