Rep. Paul Ryan joined the Morning Joe gang Tuesday to respond to President Obama’s pointed criticism of his budget proposal.
Last week, Obama derided Ryan’s budget plan as “an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country,” and “thinly veiled social Darwinism.”
“We’re kind of used to these verbal tantrums from the president,” Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, told Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski in response. He dismissed Obama’s attack as “a rhetorical broadside to distract from the fact that the president isn’t proposing solutions.”
Ryan also slammed the administration’s proposed “Buffett Rule” – which would ensure that households making over $1 million pay an effective tax rate of at least 30 percent – as “a huge tax increase on job creators.”
Ryan portrayed himself as a friend to the neediest Americans, arguing that if social programs aren’t cut now, a fiscal crisis will be inevitable, with far more painful results for those who depend on those programs. “We have a debt crisis coming,” he said. “And the people who get hurt the first and the worst in the debt crisis are people who need the government the most – the poor, the sick, the elderly. And if we have this debt crisis, then we’re going to have an ugly episode like we’re experiencing in Europe.”
And he contended that the record number of Americans living in poverty represents an argument for cutting social programs further, since they prove the current approach isn’t working. “We don’t think throwing more money at these programs that are failing are the answer.”
But many argue that making life harder for millions of struggling Americans isn’t the answer either. Ryan’s cuts to Medicaid, for instance, would cause between 14 and 27 million Americans to lose their health insurance, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute (pdf). Meanwhile, Ryan would cut taxes for the richest Americans.
Those tax cuts – both the extension of the Bush cuts, as well as other cuts on top of that – would cost $4.6 trillion in revenue, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (pdf). Ryan points to closing tax loopholes to say that the ultimate impact on taxes would be neutral – but hasn’t said which loopholes he’d close, and didn’t get specific this morning.
Mitt Romney has embraced Ryan’s budget, and it’s looking like the proposal will play a key role in the presidential campaign. That should give voters a stark choice between competing visions for society. And isn’t that what elections are supposed to be about?