Paul Ryan is a Wisconsin congressman with controversial ideas for reigning in our nation’s budget. Politics professor, Dennis Plane, comments on Paul Ryan’s policies:
Paul Ryan supports the idea that lowering taxes on corporations and the rich will boost our economic growth. That was our nation’s policy under President Bush. Will this policy, now, render a different outcome?
I think that Ryan would say that these policies would go back to Reagan. Reagan lowered taxes on the wealthy and corporations. The wealthy and corporations had more money to invest in industries that provide jobs and that helps the economy over all. I am sure that Paul Ryan would say that these policies worked because they lead to the “tech boom” in the 1990s. He’d say this was a direct result of Reagan Era policies that focused on lowering the tax burden of those who invested in the economy. And, if it didn’t work, it’s because big spending liberals who refused to cut spending in Congress.
He wants to reform Medicare and says, “Medicare is the biggest contributor is the biggest contributor to skyrocketing healthcare cost.” What is Paul Ryan’s idea for changing Medicare?
Right now, the way it works is if you are retired and on Medicare when you go to the doctor, the government pays for your procedure at a discounted, negotiated rate. The government pays the doctors directly. There is no incentive for the consumer to save money or use less health care. One of the premises to Ryan’s proposals is that free market incentives will help reduce costs and people will not use healthcare that they don’t need. His specific proposal is not to pay doctors directly, but to pay seniors a voucher or coupon. The idea is that you are going to pick the health insurance that is most cost effective. This reduces healthcare costs. What this also means, if you don’t have a lot of money, if you are poor or middle class, you will say that you can’t afford all of the care that you need. You are going to buy a cheaper plan without all of the coverage.
The burden goes onto the people who can less afford it. If you are wealthy, you can pick up the extra cost. This is why Democrats really don’t like it, because it passes the burden of healthcare onto the elderly. The whole idea of having Medicare is so that elderly people are not worried if they can afford to pay for healthcare.
In the nation’s last healthcare discussions, healthcare companies’ profits were seen as a big contributor to rising healthcare prices. How should we be viewing healthcare?
Conservatives would say that healthcare companies that have brought us amazing increases of in medical technology and life-saving drugs are entitled to a modest and healthy profit. They don’t see that as part of the problem, they see that as evidence that the free market is working. If we start blaming profits, we will take away the incentives that have produced the best healthcare system in the world.
Some people say that healthcare isn’t a commodity, like an iPad. It is a necessity, not a luxury, and it’s a human right. You can’t do with out healthcare, but you can do without an iPad.
Paul Ryan wants to focus on spending cuts and economic growth. His spending cuts directly affect the poorest members of our nation. Why have military expenses been exempt from his proposal?
In general, conservatives think that we need a strong military and they think that the problem of the United State’s deficits results from out-of-control domestic spending. There is no doubt that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, with the baby boomers retiring; all of these domestic programs have skyrocketed in terms of costs. With this, the quality of healthcare has also skyrocketed.
The problem, according to conservatives, is that domestic spending is where the costs are increasing. Therefore, that is where we should focus on reducing the costs. We have the best military in the world, so why would we want to tinker with something that is working well? thry might say. It is an ideological preference of conservatives. They don’t mind spending a ton of money on the military but they do mind spending a ton of money on social services.
In your opinion, what should Congress be focused on as ways to rein in our budget?
The problem is not a spending problem. It is a revenue problem. We have had years of tax cuts on the wealthy and corporations. This has resulted in insufficient revenue to provide the services that government can and should provide. If you starve the government of revenue, it’s not a surprise the quality of services will decrease.
The first thing that we have to do is get rid of the Bush tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The second thing that we need to do is tax all income equally. Right now, if you earn income from investments, capital gains, you pay a lower tax on it than if you earn wages being a college professor. Those should be equal and shouldn’t give preference to people who invest. The third thing is that we need to include Social Security taxes on all income, regardless of the source.
These are the tax changes that we need to see but we also need to pair that with spending cuts. We need to cut the military spending, agricultural subsidies and there is room for increased efficiency. We also need to cut Social Security benefits for the wealthy. When Donald Trump retires, he probably doesn’t need Social Security benefits, but yet by law he receives them. I think that Medicare is different than Social Security because I think that healthcare is a right. I would love a system where every citizen is given healthcare. Good luck getting all of this passed.
~ Erin Kreischer ’13, Juniata Online Journalist