When President Obama said that we succeed in America “because of our individual initiative but also because we do things together,” he was actually speaking in more general terms — about manufacturing companies that ship their goods on our railways and highways and thus indirectly benefit from that public infrastructure. With a net worth of up to $3.2 million and ranking as the 124th richest member of Congress, Paul Ryan very directly and very significantly benefited from the federal spending he now rails against.
Or does he? What’s funny is that Mr. Anti-Spending secured millions in earmarks for his home state of Wisconsin, including, among other things, $3.3 million for highway projects. And Ryan voted to preserve $40 billion in special subsidies for big oil, an industry in which, it so happens, Ryan and his wife hold ownership stakes. Yet Ryan wants to gut financial aid for college students, food stamps for hungry families, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security — the very things that have, historically, helped poor families climb the ladder of opportunity in America.
And this is precisely the problem with the Romney-Ryan vision for America: It takes the ladder of opportunity and public infrastructure that helped the previous generation and yanks it up for the next generation. Your grandfather went to college on the GI Bill? We’re not even going to give you measly Pell Grants! Your grandmother lived independently thanks to Social Security? We’re giving yours to Wall Street to crash with the rest of our economy! Your great-grandfather got rich building public railways and roads? We’re going to cut taxes for the rich to historic lows and raise taxes on the struggling middle class to barely cover the cost of plugging potholes!
It’s “I Got Mine, Now Screw You!” economics. This kind of hard-heartedness may appeal to the extreme fringe base of Republican voters, but it is as repulsive to mainstream voters as it is corrosive to the American dream. The Romney-Ryan budget focuses 62 percent of its cuts on programs that help the poor — in order to pay for more tax breaks for the already-rich and, incidentally, raise the deficit.