Speaker Ryan leaves behind new tax code, busted budget


Speaker Ryan leaves behind new tax code, busted budget

Associated Press

WASHINGTON

House Speaker Paul Ryan will leave Congress having achieved one of his career goals: rewriting the tax code. On his other defining aim – balancing the budget and cutting back benefit programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – Ryan has utterly failed.

Ryan, a budget geek with a passion for details who announced Wednesday that he would retire next year, proved adroit in drawing up budget plans that balanced on paper but didn’t get beyond the hypothetical. Under his leadership, Republicans never tried to implement the deep cuts his budget called for, particularly his vision of turning Medicare into a voucher-like program for future retirees. Instead, the House passed steep tax cuts while increasing spending, setting the government on a path to rising deficits.

Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe said: “Paul Ryan was always a reluctant speaker of the House, but he did step up after John Boehner resigned and did a pretty good job during a very difficult time. I think we are watching the further transformation of the Republican Party to bring it more in line with [President Donald] Trump’s vision. The real struggle will come this November as a new crop of Republicans try to hang on to a GOP majority as Democrats hope the House will turn blue.”

He added: “Trump’s popularity continues to inch upward, and his base continues to appreciate the fight he is engaged in. If we have learned anything over the course of the campaign and his first year in office, it’s that you should not bet against Trump.”

County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras said, “I am not surprised that he’s not seeking re-election because he is philosophically at odds with the president of the United States. They say the Democratic Party is going through an identity crisis. What we’re going through is a cut on our finger compared to the cancer that’s infected the Republican Party.”

The gap between Ryan’s reach and his grasp was especially stark this week. The Congressional Budget Office said Monday that the tax bill and last month’s $1.3 trillion spending bill would add more than $2.6 trillion to the national debt over the coming decade – and the looming return of the first trillion-dollar deficits since President Barack Obama’s first term.

The rising deficits don’t lay at Ryan’s feet alone. Although the 48-year-old lawmaker from Wisconsin was an aggressive salesman for his plans, and was once viewed as the new face of a GOP focused on shrinking the size of government, the party ultimately did not turn his way.

Trump had no interest in Ryan’s Medicare proposal and even called it a political loser during the 2016 primary campaign. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has made clear he’s not interested in taking on Social Security reforms.

“I feel from all the budgets that I’ve passed, normalizing entitlement reform, pushing the cause of entitlement reform and the House passing entitlement reform, I’m very proud of that fact,” Ryan said Wednesday.

Earlier in his career, Ryan was an advocate for partially privatizing Social Security by allowing younger retirees to steer a portion of their payroll taxes into retirement accounts. That idea cratered in 2005 despite a determined push by President George W. Bush.

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