So much for that ‘new direction’ on poverty: Paul Ryan’s tax plan is a massive handout for the rich

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (WI) speaking at the Republican National Convention. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (WI) speaking at the Republican National Convention. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Paul Ryan (WI), Republican Speaker of the House, has lately fashioned himself as a crusader for the poor, apologizing for saying those on government assistance are “takers” and rolling out policy planks that he says offer “a new direction.” But the tax plan that he unveiled in June would give so much to the richest Americans that barely anything would be left over for the poorest.

According to a new analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, after a decade of being in place Ryan’s tax plan would hand 99.6 percent of its benefits to the richest 1 percent of Americans.

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That leaves just 0.4 percent to be doled out to everyone in the bottom 99 percent. While the poorest Americans would see an extra $100 in their pockets after a decade of Ryan’s tax cuts, the top fifth would get $10,710 more and the 1 percent would benefit from nearly a quarter million dollars.

Tax Policy Center
Tax Policy Center

Ryan and the House Republicans claimed that their plan wouldn’t raise the deficit, but that’s not what the analysis finds. The Tax Policy Center found that it would cost the government $3.1 trillion over a decade, raising the federal debt by $6.6 trillion.

If Ryan wanted to keep all of his policies deficit-neutral, that would require deep cuts elsewhere, which could fall on the poorest who rely on various government services to get by.

While handing the rich a massive giveaway, Ryan’s prescriptions for the poor look very different. In 2014 he rolled out a package of plans aimed at poverty relief that called for lumping a number of major programs together and giving them a fixed amount of federal money, a plan likely to eat away at how much they get over time. It also included the creation of “customized life plans” for any poor person who signed up for benefits, including penalties if he or she failed to meet the goals.

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Then this June he put forward another plan as part of his A Better Way agenda. It was stacked with penalties for poor families, including tough work requirements for programs that don’t currently have them such as food stamps or housing aid. It also cut Head Start, Social Security, and other programs serving low-income Americans.

That follows the trajectory of Ryan’s plans over the years, which have derived the vast majority of their spending cuts from programs that serve the least well off.