Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By CONNIE CASS The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Paul Ryan traveled a perilous route to political stardom. While other lawmakers nervously whistled past trillion-dollar deficits, fearing to cut popular programs, he waded in with a machete and a smile.
Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Mitt Romney's pick as a running mate, wants to slice away at virtually every government program but the military.
The Associated Press
Ryan wants to slice away at Medicare, food stamps and virtually every other government program but the military.
Democrats, led by President Obama, have made him their budget boogeyman. Even many fellow Republicans were reluctant to follow him at first.
But Ryan has become a hero to deficit hawks. Twice now, the Republican-led House has embraced his austere budget plans. And in these tea party-infused, economically bleak days, Ryan’s fiscal ideas have moved into the Republican Party’s mainstream, just in time to be tested in the 2012 elections.
As Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, the GOP’s boisterous budget outrider is now its loudest voice on taxes and spending.
Romney calls his running mate an intellectual leader of the party with a “bold and exciting” budget plan. But Romney also has been careful to note, without elaboration, that he doesn’t necessarily agree with all of Ryan’s ideas.
Indeed, some of the Wisconsin congressman’s previous suggestions – on the shelf since he ascended to the chairmanship of the House Budget Committee in 2011 – were politically riskier. They included privatizing Medicare and part of Social Security and ending taxes on interest and investment income, meaning some wealthy investors like Romney might owe virtually nothing. Ryan has backed off those proposals, but he still stirs controversy.
Some of his current ideas:
SHRINK THE DEFICIT
For Ryan, it all starts with putting the brakes on the nation’s out-of-control debt. For years he’s been wielding colorful charts and graphs to sound the alarm about annual deficits topping $1 trillion.
In March, the House passed a federal budget outline based on Ryan’s plans that would protect the Pentagon but reduce spending on almost everything else, including highways and farm programs, NASA and weather forecasts, medical research and college aid. It aims to whittle the annual deficit to about $287 billion in 2022. That compares with a $704 billion deficit projected for Obama’s budget plan. (The House bill is a non-starter in the Democratic-controlled Senate.)
A majority of House Republicans actually voted for even deeper cuts. And a few Democrats joined in passing the Ryan plan, which over the next decade would spend $5.3 trillion less than Obama wants while cutting taxes by $2 trillion more.
A numbers man, Ryan loathes budgetary uncertainty. So he wants to lock down how much the government can spend on entitlement programs such as Medicaid and food stamps. Critics complain that this would transfer the risks of rising prices or greater need to individual Americans.
Ryan says the most important thing he can do to help people in need is to rescue the nation from fiscal disaster.
OVERHAUL INCOME TAXES
As much as he wants to shrink the deficit, Ryan wouldn’t do it by raising taxes.
He wants to lower tax rates by compressing the current six brackets into two: 10 percent and 25 percent. The current top rate for the wealthiest is 35 percent. He also would reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent. Ryan says he would make up the lost tax revenue by eliminating unspecified tax breaks and loopholes.
Ryan – like Romney and congressional Republicans – would extend Bush-era tax cuts for everyone. Obama wants to allow taxes on earnings over $200,000 per individual or $250,000 per couple to go back up next year, to a top rate of 39.6 percent.
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