Illinois Republicans voted Tuesday and Mitt Romney won. Or he didn't; we don't really know at this point. But we do know that, whichever way the state goes, pundits are going to make all the predictable predictions: that the win (or loss) doesn't imply his inevitability (or that it does); that math will ultimately decide the nominee; that Romney is strong in urban centers but weak among rural conservatives; and probably, if we know our colleagues like we think we do, something about how he once strapped the family dog to the car roof for a long road trip.
Now that that's out of the way, let's discuss a far more important issue that's likely to play heavily in the upcoming November elections: Tuesday's release of Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget proposal, which aims to reduce the U.S. deficit by walking back oversight of the financial sector, cutting social programs and lowering taxes on the most wealthy -- all while increasing defense spending.
Ryan takes aim at all the classic Republican bugaboos. He urges, for instance, partial repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations -- passed following the 2008 mortgage collapse in an effort to prevent future crises. While many analysts worry these regulations don't go far enough, the right's strategy to righting our finances involves reverting to the deregulated financial environment that directly enabled this job-killing recession in the first place.
Another victim of the Ryan budget pen: poor seniors. Ryan proposes eliminating $1.5 trillion from the Affordable Care Act's health insurance fund; $770 billion from Medicaid and related health programs; $200 billion from Medicare; and $1.8 trillion from the "other mandatory" column, which includes food stamps and tax credits for the poor. The Ryan budget, with strong Republican support, aims to fundamentally dismantle Medicare and gut safety net programs.
And what does Ryan propose we do with all the money saved from not assisting those most in need of assistance? Why, he wants to give it to those least in need, of course! His budget urges $3 trillion in tax breaks for the nation's richest by lowering the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, among a handful of other regressive adjustments.
Oh yes, and Ryan aims to undo and invert "mandatory" defense spending cuts put in place following the supercommittee's failure last year to reach bipartisan concensus in the debt ceiling debacle.
The Ryan budget proposal is pure political theater; there's even a surprise ending! As Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, points out: It doesn't even meet its own stated goals of deficit reduction. "He is proposing to increase the budget deficit over the long term," McIntyre concluded, pointing to vague loophole promises.
This all makes perfect sense. Paul Ryan isn't interested in fixing the economy. (That would make it more difficult for he and his party to claim the abject failure of President Barack Obama.) Ryan, like all politicians, is primarily interested in re-election and political point-scoring. It will be up to voters to determine who wins the points here.
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