On Monday, union ironworker Randy Bryce announced his candidacy, explaining in a video that he “decided to run for office because not everybody is seated at the table. And it’s time to make a bigger table.”
Although Ryan won reelection in 2016 by 35 points, his popularity has taken a hit, especially since the introduction of Republican health care legislation. Just 37 percent of voters in his district approve of him and 48 percent believe it’s time to elect a new representative.
As Bryce was putting forward his challenge to Ryan, the House Speaker was busy advocating for the very conservative agenda Bryce is challenging him on. On Tuesday, Ryan announced his intent to pursue another major tax cut for the wealthy. The first was the American Health Care Act, which includes hundreds of billions in tax breaks for those making $200,000 a year or more. The second was Ryan’s “reform” of the tax code, which he called for in a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers, which receives funding from the Koch Brothers. In his address, Ryan called on Republicans to pass his tax plan this year, saying they “cannot let this once-in-a-generation moment slip.”
Ryan didn’t speak with much specificity about the details of his plan. But he has previously rolled out a blueprint that calls for significant drops in tax rates for all incomes.
Unsurprisingly, Ryan’s tax cuts will overwhelmingly benefit the rich. An analysis by the Columbia Journal of Tax Law found that three-quarters of the tax cuts would go to the top 1 percent. The journal also determined the plan would cause the national debt to rise, an ironic result considering Ryan’s stated opposition to increasing the debt.
And Ryan’s plan goes even further than former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. While the Bush tax cuts had a ten year expiration date, Ryan has pushed to make his plan permanent.
Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told The Progressive that Ryan’s tax plan is incredibly cynical. He said the proposal is focused on one thing.
“This is really just about giving rich people more money,” he said. “And the idea that this will in anyway foster growth, it’s hard to believe anyone actually says that seriously anymore since we tried this twice with Reagan and Bush and of course it didn’t.”
Hunter Blair, budget analyst for the Economic Policy Institute, told The Progressive while he’s skeptical Ryan can get his entire tax plan passed, he does think Ryan will pass something.
“The most likely result is just a massive tax cut for the rich,” he said. “Less of the specific details of the Paul Ryan plan and more of just a straightforward tax cut.”
Cutting taxes may sound good to a lot of voters. But there has to be a limit to Americans’ tolerance for endless tax breaks for the wealthy. The top 1 percent are raking in more of the country’s income than they have since the free-market loving administrations of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover in the 1920s. And Blair said the plan would further exacerbate the already extreme economic inequality between the rich and everyone else.
In a statement responding to Ryan’s speech and proposed plan, Americans for Tax Fairness Executive Director Frank Clemente said Ryan “is not serious about tax reform” and is “going to pay for those deficit-exploding giveaways by cutting Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, public education, and a whole lot more.”
In addition, Morris Pearl, chair of Patriotic Millionaires, argued against Ryan’s claims that tax cuts create jobs—a claim that has been found false by multiple sources. Instead, Pearl declared that, “What budding young entrepreneurs need is the social safety net in place, so that they can leave their nine-to-five jobs and start a new business.”
Tax policy might not be as eye-catching an issue as health care policy or Trump’s latest dealings with Russia. But if Ryan’s plan gains traction, there a litany of reasons for progressive activists to push Democrats to fight against it.
It’s long been reported that Ryan is determined to “reform” the tax code. It’s up to progressives to make sure his dreams are shattered.
Author: Evan Popp