Paul D. Ryan
2011 Gage Skidmore
(Swans - June 6, 2011) Wisconsin representative Paul D. Ryan is the front man for the Republican efforts to balance the budget by cutting both taxes and government spending. He is perhaps even better known as the man who proposed to save Medicare by privatizing, or voucherizing, the program (the same vouchers that are intended to dismantle public education). According to his plan, seniors would receive vouchers from the government and then be left on their own to negotiate a plan with private insurers. In short, the Ryan plan would "save" Medicare by destroying it. The plan has been touted as a "Big Idea" similar to those his mentor, the late Jack Kemp, advocated in the 1980s and later, specifically tax cuts for the wealthy and supply-side economics. Ryan became a Kemp protégé and he readily acknowledges Kemp's influence on his political philosophy. So it's worth taking a look at Jack Kemp's career.
Kemp, a professional football player, worked for Barry Goldwater during the 1964 presidential campaign. He went on to help Ronald Reagan during the 1966 California gubernatorial campaign. Upon ending his football career he ran for Congress in upstate New York. He was elected and served from 1971 to 1989. He was then the secretary of housing in the Bush Sr. administration, from 1989 to 1993. In 1996, he was the running mate of Bob Dole, an early opponent of Medicare -- he voted against the 1965 legislation. A fervent adherent to and proponent of the Chicago school of economics (Milton Friedman), Jack Kemp was instrumental in passing the Kemp-Roth Tax Cut through Congress, which Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1981 -- thus triggering the biggest transfer of wealth to the happy few (since the Roaring Twenties), the ineluctable slide of the economy toward the abyss, which compounded with the offshoring of tradable jobs has literally gutted the American polity.
Another noteworthy detail in Kemp's résumé is the admission that his unyielding conservative beliefs and credentials were fashioned at an early age after reading the works of Ayn Rand, Barry Goldwater, and Friedrich von Hayek (Austrian school of economics). Since the 1950s, but increasingly after Goldwater's loss in 1964, powerful interests have financed that ideology. Daniel Denvir, a journalist in Philadelphia (PA), recently documented the stealthy work of various very wealthy, and very right-wing conservatives -- individuals and foundations that spend inordinate amounts of money to promote the work of Ayn Rand, Hayek, Mises, Friedman, et al. (They even peddle Atlas Shrugged to colleges and universities!)
Apparently, Kemp's influence can be found in Paul Ryan's agenda. Ryan, in his "roadmap" for America's future, wants to, according to Wikipedia (as of June 3, 2011), "give across the board tax cuts by reducing income tax rates; eliminating income taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest; and abolishing the corporate income tax, the estate tax, and the alternative minimum tax. The plan would privatize a portion of Social Security, eliminate the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance, and privatize Medicare." In other words, Mr. Ryan wants to drive the final stake through the heart of the federal government and, ironically, lead us all into a Randian "Road to Serfdom" that even Hayek could not have imagined.
Charles Marowitz writes about the "villainy in American politics that has polluted our traditional sense of democracy." He thinks that this "villainy is centered on the Republican Party." His first proposition in right on the money, but the second one is badly mistaken. The demise of our hopes for a better, more just democracy is a bi-partisan effort. Suffice to watch the clip of former president Bill Clinton talking to Paul Ryan a week or so ago, telling him that while his budget plan was defeated in the Senate, something had to be done in regard to "Mediscare." It is the same Bill Clinton, who in 1993-94, in his failed health care reform, wanted to move close to three million seniors into private plans. The destruction of Medicare has been a neoliberal bipartisan effort from the very day it was enacted into law in 1965.
That destruction is getting ever closer to finality.
In the circles I frequent, digitally-wise, I observe a lot of infighting about the meanings of imperialism, capitalism, socialism, and the like, but I see no understanding or unity about the dangers that are befalling the polity. I can only hope with Philip Fornaci that this destruction will lead to a better future.
(A better future indeed: If our local community health clinic, the Anderson Valley Health Center, which has lost 33 percent of its revenue, cannot get funding within the next five months, it may have to close its doors... Please read this important message.)
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