Anti-tax champion Grover Norquist recently said Paul Ryan is a ‘prophet” who “points the way to the Promise Land.” Coming from Norquist, that statement alone is reason enough for pause. But the newly elected Speaker of the House’s record on tax and budget policy also raises serious alarm regarding the direction of the nation’s fiscal policy.
For years, Rep. Ryan has been one of the leading champions of regressive tax policies. Now, as Speaker of the House, he will have a bigger microphone and a more powerful platform to push his pro-corporate, anti-worker vision for the nation’s tax code.
As chairman of the House Budget Committee in 2014, Ryan called for consolidating the existing income tax brackets down to two (10 and 25 percent), eliminating an unspecified number of tax expenditures, repealing the alternative minimum tax, reducing the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, and instituting a territorial tax system for multinational corporations. Even under the most generous assumptions, a CTJ analysis found that his plan would give millionaires an average tax break of at least $200,000 each year. Under less generous assumptions, this tax cut for the rich would balloon to nearly $330,000.
“Ryan’s colleagues in the House have said he would unite the party. Based on his record on economic policy, that unfortunately means he and his colleagues would like to unite behind regressive tax policies that ask the least of those most able to pay,” said Bob McIntyre, director of CTJ.
Beyond supporting regressive tax changes, Ryan also staunchly opposes any tax increases. He signed Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge and said he would not support any budget deal that included an increase in revenue. Not surprisingly, given his desire to reduce the deficit without increasing revenue, Ryan’s budgets require draconian cuts to critical public services. For example, Ryan’s 2014 budget includes $3.3 trillion in cuts to programs for low- and moderate-income families, such as SNAP, Medicaid and Pell Grants. In other words, Ryan’s budget simultaneously calls for massive tax cuts for the wealthy and devastating cuts to critical safety net programs.
One of the ways that Ryan has attempted to paper over the harsh reality behind these is to embrace the world of fuzzy math. During his brief tenure as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Ryan ushered in a new rule requiring that the non-partisan scorekeepers at the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) use dynamic scoring in their official cost estimates on proposed tax changes. While it has not been used extensively up to this point, dynamic scoring could have the magical effect of making costly tax cuts appear to have little effect on revenue collection due to economic growth that supposedly would result.
The nation is already struggling to fund basic priorities that Americans widely support. Federal spending today as a percent of GDP is less than it was during Ronald Reagan’s entire tenure.
“The nation cannot tax cut its way to prosperity,” McIntyre said. “Unfortunately, House members have just elected a speaker who will unite the party behind ideological, status quo policy ideas that would benefit the elite few at the expense of the rest of us.”