Even though it's an extreme right-wing front group for the Republican Party, it's still odd that the Faith and Freedom Conference would invite Ayn Rand die-hard Paul Ryan to speak at their DC conclave. Odder still that he decided to talk-- with a straight face-- about his cause (as he calls his budget proposal). As TPM reported yesterday, Ryan "was chased by a protester waving a giant Bible and decrying libertarian author Ayn Rand" as he left the meeting.
"Why did you choose to model your budget on the extreme ideology of Ayn Rand rather than the faith of economic justice in the Bible?" the blond, 20-something male asked. He said he wanted to "present" Ryan with a Bible to teach him how to help the "most vulnerable."
I've been waiting for a Christian-right kind of guy to confront Ryan with his hypocrisy. It should happen everywhere he goes, since-- like Rand said explicitly (watch the video above)-- his budget says implicitly that Jesus had it all wrong and that the least among us and most downtrodden actually don't deserve any help, just a swift kick in the balls. And all that stuff about camels getting through eyes of needles... with the tax breaks Ryan is giving the rich, they can breed miniature flying camels.
This morning Think Progress reported on mainstream religious leaders worrying aloud about how Ryan's Randian budget unfairly targets those most beloved by Jesus.
Four members affiliated with the religious group Faith In Public Life held a brief press conference during FFC’s afternoon intermission to denounce the GOP’s adherence to the philosophies of anti-government, anti-religion author Ayn Rand. The leaders-- Rev. Jennifer Butler, Jim Wallis, Rev. Derrick Harkins, and Father Clete Kiley-- asserted that the GOP efforts to cut funding from many anti-poverty programs while balancing the budget on the backs of the poorest Americans were not in line with Christian values:
"...[P]oor and low income people are not the ones to make hurt more when you’re making tough decisions. … They don’t bear the brunt of our fiscal irresponsibility because they didn’t cause it. We did not get into fiscal trouble because of poor people. … The poor didn’t cause this. Let’s not make them pay for it."
What we’re saying in the faith community, across the spectrum, is that a nation is judged-- our Bible says-- by how we treat the poorest and most vulnerable. Period. That’s what God says to us. That’s God’s instruction to us. To be faithful to God, we have to protect poor people.
Wallis and Butler repeatedly asserted that political leaders could not adhere to the teachings of both Rand and the church. “This budget has more to do with the teaching of Ayn Rand than the etchings of Jesus Christ,” Butler said. “I read [Rand] in high school, and she said, ‘You have to choose me or Jesus,’” Wallis added. “And so I did. She lost.”
Religious leaders have recently spoken out to House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)-- both of whom are practicing Catholics-- telling them that the cuts in their budget disproportionately target poor Americans and are thus out of line with Christian and Catholic teaching. Early in May, a group of Catholic bishops sent Boehner a letter denouncing the budget cuts. Ryan, meanwhile, has attempted to persuade Catholic bishops that his budget is in line with religious teaching. Kiley was skeptical today, however, saying Ryan handpicked phrases from Catholic teaching in attempts to justify his budget cuts, largely ignoring the majority of Catholic teaching.
Of course Ryan and Boehner worked out a scheme to pacify seniors by promising them that the kill Medicare budget would only impact future generations and that they're safe. Seniors have overwhelming rejected that sociopathic attitude anyway but now, as Tim Fernholz at the National Journal revealed, even that's a lie! Ryan even threw the seniors he's expecting to reelect him under the bus! But why should the William Edward Hickman of politics honor the elderly?
Republicans are convinced that burnishing the public’s view of their unpopular proposal to overhaul Medicare depends on assuring today’s seniors that they won’t be affected.
“The retirees are going to be taken care of; there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” House Speaker John Boehner vowed in an interview with CBS last month. The plan’s architect, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has said time and again that the changes wouldn’t affect anybody getting close to retirement. “We propose to not change the benefits for people above the age of 55,” Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, insisted last week.
There’s only one problem with the strategy: It’s not true.
The policies in the House GOP budget, if enacted, would begin affecting millions of seniors almost immediately by increasing their costs for prescription drugs and probably long-term care. Further, Medicare costs could rise over time if healthier seniors choose to abandon the traditional benefit program.
Exploiting the fear of change is a constant in health care politics, so nearly every reformer tries to play down the dislocation inherent in plans to make the system fiscally sustainable. During his own reform push, President Obama promised citizens they could keep their existing health insurance plans if they liked them. That was not exactly true: Although the new law doesn’t eliminate the current insurance system, it does put in place new incentives that experts predict will significantly change individuals’ health care options.
Republicans capitalized on the fear of those potential changes, as well as of hundreds of billions in genuine cuts to Medicare spending that were part of last year’s law, and they won heavily in November’s midterm elections. The president’s party lost seniors by more than 20 percentage points after splitting their vote 50-50 with the GOP in the prior midterm election. This year, however, it is the Republicans’ turn to be nervous, as opinion polls and their surprising loss in a special election in upstate New York revealed voter anxiety about their plan.
In response, the GOP is doubling down on the idea that today’s seniors won’t be affected. That’s partly true. Ryan’s plan to convert Medicare into a limited insurance subsidy, the most controversial aspect of the budget, wouldn’t take effect until 2022.
But the proposal would also repeal last year’s health care law, which means reopening a coverage gap in Medicare’s prescription-drug benefit that the statute closed. The gap, commonly called the “doughnut hole,” requires seniors to pay 100 percent of any prescription costs after the annual total reaches $2,840 and until it hits $4,550. Those who spend more or less have at least three-quarters of the costs covered. Under the 2010 health law, Medicare will pay 7 percent of the cost of generic drugs and 50 percent on name-brand pharmaceuticals; by 2020, the doughnut hole will be closed.
If Congress were to pass Ryan’s plan and repeal the law, as House Republicans want, the 3 million to 4 million seniors left in the doughnut hole each year would immediately face significant out-of-pocket costs. They and all other Medicare beneficiaries would also lose access to a host of preventative-care benefits in the health care law, including free wellness visits to physicians, mammograms, colonoscopies, and programs to help smokers quit.
Perhaps more jolting, the Republican budget would cut spending on Medicaid-- health care for the poor-- much of which goes to long-term care for the elderly. Some 9 million seniors qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid benefits, and about two-thirds of all nursing-home residents are covered by Medicaid. The GOP budget proposes cutting some $744 billion from Medicaid over 10 years by turning the system into block grants that limit federal contributions and give states more choice in structuring benefits. No one knows exactly which Medicaid services states would choose to cut back, but senior citizens account for a disproportionate share of Medicaid outlays and would almost certainly bear some of the burden.
“We know that two-thirds of the dollars in Medicaid go to people who are disabled or over 65, so this is the big funder of long-term care in this country,” said David Certner, AARP’s legislative-policy director. “We also know this could have an impact on home- and community-based care, which is the kind of care individuals prefer the most [and] often the ones that will be cut first.”
The plan to grandfather traditional Medicare for those older than 55 could also have negative consequences for current seniors: In 2022, when the limited-subsidy program would be introduced, seniors who qualified for traditional Medicare would be allowed to switch to the new program. If healthier or younger beneficiaries make the change to lower their out-of-pocket costs, those still participating in Medicare would be part of an insurance pool that is less healthy and more expensive. To cover those higher per-person costs, Medicare might well be forced to either raise premiums or limit reimbursements to health care providers-- which could prompt many to stop taking Medicare patients.
Republicans say that comparing their plan with the projected costs of unsustainable programs is an exercise in magical thinking. They have a point. But the idea of cutting benefits deeply without affecting anyone over 55 is almost as fantastic.
If Christians stop taking Ryan seriously-- serious Christians I mean, not right-wing fanatics making believe they're Christians-- at least he'll still have the punditocracy on his side, as Krugman opined yesterday. "[M]any of the pundits who gushed over the Ryan plan, after being rocked back a bit when the plan was exposed as the nonsense it is, have decided to double down. In particular, they are insisting that anyone who describes a plan to dismantle Medicare as a plan to dismantle Medicare is somehow engaged in disreputable scare tactics."
You can read the rest of the post here and you can donate to Rob Zerban's campaign to retire Ryan from Congress here