Republicans Root for the Villain

Paul Ryan’s new budget steals from the poor and gives to the rich.

Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President

Republicans could have chosen Captain America or Underdog for their figurehead; instead, Paul Ryan's budget emulates Prince John from Robin Hood. (Gage Skidmore / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Reject­ing dozens of hero­ic char­ac­ters, from Cap­tain Amer­i­ca to Under­dog, Repub­li­cans last week chose instead a vil­lain for their figurehead. 

Republicans voted to cut food stamps, school lunches and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The GOP serenade to those Americans: 'Starve, starve, starve, starve, starve poor kids.'

They select­ed Prince John, the guy who cod­dled the rich and tried to crush Robin Hood. House Repub­li­cans vot­ed to ele­vate Prince John as their cham­pi­on when they passed a bud­get slash­ing tax­es for the rich and dec­i­mat­ing pro­grams for work­ers and low-income Americans.

Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can Paul Ryan, who authored the anti-Robin Hood spend­ing plan, said the bud­get comes down to a mat­ter of trust.” Trust, Ryan believes, should be placed in the rich and Wash­ing­ton politi­cians like him, a Prince John man who devised a spend­ing scam enrich­ing the rich and depriv­ing the rest. Ryan asked, Who knows bet­ter: the peo­ple or Wash­ing­ton?” The GOP answer: Wash­ing­ton, of course. A place pur­chased by the very, very rich.

Ryan’s anti-Robin Hood spend­ing plan takes health care from the poor and elder­ly and gives tax breaks to the rich and super rich. Real­ly. Repub­li­cans vot­ed to cut tax­es for mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires from 39.6 per­cent to 25 per­cent. Nice, right? Except for Amer­i­cans who depend on Medicare, Med­ic­aid and Obamacare.

Repub­li­cans vot­ed to voucher­ize Medicare, which would force senior cit­i­zens to pay thou­sands of dol­lars more each year. Ryan and his fel­low House Repub­li­cans vot­ed to kill Oba­macare, which means the 7.1 mil­lion who got insur­ance on the exchanges would lose it; the 3.1 mil­lion young peo­ple cov­ered under Obamacare’s exten­sion of their par­ents’ plans would lose insur­ance, and the 3 mil­lion who got insur­ance under Obamacare’s Med­ic­aid expan­sion would lose it.

That’s 13 mil­lion with­out health insur­ance, in addi­tion to low-income seniors strug­gling to pay pre­mi­ums as Ryan’s vouch­ers lose val­ue. But, hey, bil­lion­aires get a tax break!

Ryan’s anti-Robin Hood spend­ing scheme pro­vides more mon­ey for guns and less for bread. Repub­li­cans would increase mil­i­tary spend­ing by $483 bil­lion above caps in the 2011 Bud­get Con­trol Act while slash­ing non-arms spend­ing by $791 billion. 

That works out well for Repub­li­can hawks like John McCain, who want to bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” Not so much for low-income par­ents who want their chil­dren to eat. Repub­li­cans vot­ed to cut food stamps, school lunch­es and the Spe­cial Sup­ple­men­tal Nutri­tion Pro­gram for Women, Infants, and Chil­dren (WIC). The GOP ser­e­nade to those Amer­i­cans: Starve, starve, starve, starve, starve poor kids.”

Ryan’s anti-Robin Hood spend­ing plan robs low-income Amer­i­cans of fund­ing for Pell Grants, Head Start and spe­cial edu­ca­tion while grant­i­ng tax breaks to cor­po­ra­tions so prof­itable that they are sit­ting on $1.5 tril­lion in cash. Repub­li­cans would hand cor­po­ra­tions a tax rate cut from 35 to 25 per­cent, while ensur­ing that an uneven edu­ca­tion­al play­ing field pre­vents impov­er­ished Amer­i­cans from ever achiev­ing those new, low­er tax rates for the rich.

Ryan’s anti-Robin Hood plan would pierce Big Bird’s heart with an arrow while free­ing cor­po­ra­tions from pay­ing tax­es on over­seas cor­po­rate earn­ings. Just to be clear, that would mean the death of Junior’s Sesame Street pro­gram and his daddy’s man­u­fac­tur­ing job, since this tax sys­tem would encour­age cor­po­ra­tions to ship fac­to­ries over­seas where prof­its wouldn’t be taxed.

Ryan said fed­er­al sub­si­dies for Big Bird’s nest — the non-prof­it Cor­po­ra­tion for Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing—can no longer be jus­ti­fied.” But, Repub­li­cans believe, for-prof­it cor­po­ra­tions that don’t pro­vide pub­lic edu­ca­tion should pay no tax­es at all on off­shore earn­ings — even while Amer­i­cans sup­ply the big mil­i­tary stick that pro­tects these cor­po­ra­tions’ for­eign facilities.

Wash­ing­ton politi­cian Paul Ryan’s pri­or­i­ties are not America’s. Sev­en­ty-nine per­cent of Amer­i­cans believe cor­po­ra­tions should pay the same tax rate on for­eign prof­its as they do on domes­tic profits.

Forced to choose, the major­i­ty would pick Big Bird over a big bomb. Sup­port for the war in Afghanistan has plum­met­ed to 17 per­cent. Few­er than 13 per­cent sup­port mil­i­tary action against Rus­sia for its actions in Ukraine.

Some 70 per­cent of Amer­i­cans oppose cuts to food stamps. Sim­i­lar­ly, 69 per­cent want the nation’s edu­ca­tion sys­tem improved. Six­ty-one per­cent say the rich don’t pay enough tax­es. Six­ty-six per­cent believe cor­po­ra­tions don’t pay enough tax­es. Sev­en­ty-four per­cent favor the expan­sion of Med­ic­aid under Obamacare.

The Repub­li­cans’ pri­or­i­ties are all wrong. As were those of Prince John and the Sher­iff of Not­ting­ham. Ryan and his right-wing crew focus on the demands of the wealthy and ignore the val­ues of the vast major­i­ty of Americans.

Ryan uses mag­i­cal account­ing to assert that his bud­get will bal­ance in a decade. Elim­i­nat­ing the deficit is an urgent mat­ter for Ryan and Wash­ing­ton Repub­li­cans, but it’s not among the top pri­or­i­ties of most Amer­i­cans. Theirs are improv­ing the econ­o­my and increas­ing jobs. Repub­li­cans ignored that, approv­ing a bud­get that will reduce jobs.

Over decades, Amer­i­cans cre­at­ed and strength­ened social pro­grams for them­selves that they now cher­ish. These include Medicare, Med­ic­aid, Pell Grants, Head Start, and pub­lic radio and television.

In polls, Amer­i­cans have even said they are will­ing to pay more tax­es to sup­port beloved social wel­fare pro­grams. Most believe, how­ev­er, that if cor­po­ra­tions and bil­lion­aires paid their fair share, these pro­grams would not be threat­ened. For exam­ple, if mil­lion­aires paid the same per­cent­age of their income into Social Secu­ri­ty that min­i­mum wage earn­ers do, the trust fund would not run dry in 20 years poten­tial­ly lim­it­ing ben­e­fits in 2033

In a prin­ci­pled bud­get process, elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives would fair­ly tax the rich, not steal from the poor. There’s even a par­tial anti­dote for Ryan’s anti-Robin Hood bud­get. It’s called the Robin Hood tax. It’s a tiny fee on finan­cial trans­ac­tions. Many experts believe it would dis­cour­age risky trad­ing on Wall Street while rais­ing bil­lions for pro­grams like Pell Grants and Big Bird. Eleven Euro­pean Union nations, includ­ing the four largest, are mov­ing toward levy­ing it.

That tax is not in the Repub­li­cans’ anti-Robin Hood spend­ing scheme. That’s because Ryan’s a Wash­ing­ton politi­cian who believes he knows bet­ter than the Amer­i­can people. 

Leo Ger­ard is inter­na­tion­al pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed Steel­work­ers Union, part of the AFL-CIO. The son of a union min­er; Ger­ard start­ed work­ing at a nick­el smelter in Sud­bury, Ontario, at age 18, and rose through the union’s ranks to be appoint­ed the sev­enth inter­na­tion­al pres­i­dent Feb. 28, 2001. For more infor­ma­tion about Ger­ard, vis­it usw​.org.
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