Ryan Budget Sends Message to GOP: Focus on Human Impact

House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan’s new budget framework puts an extra special focus on the human impact of the GOP’s fiscally conservative policies, as a 91-page detailed description of the plan obtained by Breitbart News shows. The new Ryan budget explains the positives of entitlement reform for different groups of people, including the poor, and equally details how doing nothing will negatively affect such constituencies.

Ryan--the GOP's young wonk who brought entitlement reform to the forefront of the national political debate and framed his party's forward-looking vision on all things fiscal--is now making it his mission to tackle the next big Republican obstacle: connecting with constituencies long since abandoned by the elders of his party. The former vice presidential candidate is reframing the arguments for fiscal conservatism, entitlement reform, and welfare reform in a manner that humanizes the impact of his recommended actions. He also addresses the effects that doing nothing--the path Democrats seem to want to take on these issues--will have on ordinary Americans.

Republicans have often been criticized, especially in the wake of President Barack Obama’s re-election, for being ineffective at communicating their message to lower income and minority voters. Democrats have exploited that communication weakness by relentlessly attacking the GOP over their budget plans. For instance, Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Minority Whip, this week recycled old negative campaign rhetoric to bash Ryan’s new budget. Hoyer accused Ryan’s budget reform plans of hurting the “middle class, seniors, veterans, women, children, federal employees, low-income families, and those nearing retirement."

But this time Ryan is prepared to fight back--with facts instead of the Democrats’ typical demagoguery.

That 91-page detailed description of the Ryan budget is laden with arguments that undercut class warfare rhetoric, for which the left is so infamous. While such arguments are far from perfect, and not every solution Ryan proposes offers a humanized case in favor of reform or against stagnation, it certainly is a start. If Republicans want to connect with all voters--including women, minorities, lower income as well as middle class voters--they need to connect their ideas with these people and compete with the left, who are selling more government--an idea that is a lot easier to communicate despite how disastrous it may be.

Ryan predicts a “debt crisis,” a coming catastrophe he contrasts with the financial crisis that rocked America a few years ago. The financial crisis, Ryan’s budget description says, “flared up suddenly, though the tinder had been building up over time.” From that crisis, the House Budget Committee notes that four million families lost their homes and nine million Americans lost their jobs. Ryan’s committee argues that the coming “debt crisis,” one “of another sort” is, compared to the financial crisis, “more predictable … and more dangerous than ever.”

Without addressing America’s debt and spending problems before a “debt crisis broke out,” Ryan’s committee said, “the pain would be worse.” The committee cites former Tax Policy Center director Len Burman as saying a debt crisis would shrink the economy to 25 by 30 percent, a “contraction rivaling the Great Depression in size.”

“The effects of a debt crisis would cascade through the economy—all the way down to the individual,” Ryan’s committee adds, in a section describing the impact such a debt crisis would have on ordinary Americans. “Nearly all consumer-borrowing rates are linked to long-term Treasury rates. As Treasury rates increased, rates on mortgages, credit cards, and car loans would follow.”

With regard to the poor, Ryan’s committee notes they would be hurt the most by a debt crisis. “Finally, a debt crisis would hurt the most vulnerable worst of all,” the budget description says. “During the financial crisis, the federal government was able to borrow money to provide assistance to these families. In a debt crisis, however, the government would be unable to provide that assistance.”

The committee cites local debt crises as examples of what would happen on a larger scale nationally, pointing to how retirees in Central Falls, Rhode Island have had their pensions “slashed by up to 55 percent.” The committee also notes how Stockton, California, “has laid off 25 percent of its police force in the face of increasing pension costs.”

“Millions of Americans—the elderly, the poor—depend on assistance from the federal government,” the committee adds. “If we had a debt crisis, we wouldn’t be able to keep our promises to these families. We can’t let that happen. We still have time to avert this crisis, but we need to get serious about spending—now. That’s why this budget achieves balance within the next ten years. It protects and strengthens the safety net and our entitlement programs, so we can keep our word to the most vulnerable.”

With food stamp and welfare reform, Ryan makes his argument in favor of block granting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program down to the states so as to more efficiently handle food stamp and welfare recipients’ needs, and tries to set the program up so welfare recipients can get off the programs eventually by finding work. His budget’s push for the reinstatement of the work requirements of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program notes that Bill Clinton’s and Newt Gingrich’s compromise on that reform “led to the largest sustained reduction in child poverty since the onset of the ‘Great Society.’”

In his budget’s push to reform student loan programs, Ryan’s committee argues that the current system of “federal-aid structures are exacerbating a crisis in tuition inflation, plunging students and their families into unaffordable levels of debt or foreclosing the possibility of any higher education at all” and “these young adults are graduating with enormous loan repayments and having difficulty finding jobs in our low-growth economic environment.”

While talking about Medicare, Ryan’s committee notes that “[a]bsent reform, current seniors will experience diminished care, while the next generation will inherit a bankrupt Medicare program.” Ryan’s committee made a similar argument against doing nothing with regard to Social Security.

If his budget’s Medicare reforms are actually implemented, Ryan’s committee add that they “will make sure low-income Americans don’t fall through the cracks” and “[i]f costs rose faster than the established limit, the federal government would pay the out-of-pocket expenses of those patients who qualified for both programs.”


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