Last week, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) said that he favored paying for an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans with unspent stimulus funds, essentially calling for the tax cuts in the Recovery Act to be rescinded in order to finance tax cuts for the rich. And last night on MSNBC, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) went down the same road, advocating for a full extension of the Bush tax cuts, but rescinding the stimulus in order to decrease the deficit.
During the segment, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews called out Republicans on their deficit hypocrisy, saying “you won’t raise taxes and you won’t cut spending, so in other words, all this bitching about the deficit doesn’t mean squat.” He then pressed Ryan to come up with one specific program that he would do away with:
MATTHEWS: I just don’t see any program cuts. You talk in general terms, but let me tell you this, the major Republicans that come on television will not cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, they won’t cut the military, they can’t cut debt servicing, they won’t get rid of a major cost of government. They’ll talk about ‘let’s freeze discretionary spending’ in some sort of generalized way, but they won’t get rid of any government…Take a chunk out of that $1.4 [trillion deficit] by getting rid of a big program, a good expenditure that people watching can understand.
RYAN: I would rescind the unspent stimulus funds, I would rescind all the TARP funds they aren’t spending, I would do a federal hiring freeze and pay freeze for the rest of the year, and I would go back and cut discretionary spending back to ’08 levels and freeze that spending going forward.
First, it’s worth pointing out that Matthews specifically criticized Republicans for their continued calls for vague spending freezes, only to have Ryan advocate…a spending freeze. But more importantly, Ryan’s plan is to place the burden for deficit reduction squarely on the middle class.
Remember, contrary to the conservative portrayal, the stimulus cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, and there are still $55 billion in tax benefits that have yet to be expended. So repealing the stimulus to pay down the deficit amounts to raising taxes on all of those people.
Of course, suggesting tax increases on the lower- and middle-class while pushing for tax cuts for the rich is nothing new for Ryan. After all, he has proposed a budget that raises taxes on 90 percent of Americans — while lowering them for the richest 10 percent of the country — and still manages to lose $2 trillion in revenue. His much ballyhooed Roadmap for America, which even Republican leaders don’t want to touch, would also privatize Social Security and Medicare.