Paul Ryan Only Ever Cared About the Rich

Negin Owliaei

Negin Owliaei Researcher and Editor, Institute for Policy Studies

It feels like a million years have passed since Paul Ryan was Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate. But a story from back then speaks volumes about his legacy today.

On the campaign trail, Ryan took some heat for “ramrodding” his way into an Ohio soup kitchen — without permission — for a staged photo op. All the patrons had been served and the kitchen had been cleaned, so the Romney team snapped some pictures of Ryan washing a couple dishes. They left after 15 minutes.

There’s no better anecdote to sum up Paul Ryan’s career in politics — masquerade as an advocate for poor people for the chance to pass policies that would hurt them most.

Still, Ryan managed to cement a reputation as a “deficit hawk,” as an earnest but ultimately compassionate policy wonk making the shrewd budget choices that would allow people across the country to prosper. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

There is, of course, the issue of Ryan’s obvious hypocrisy on the national debt. The 2018 deficit ballooned under his supposedly watchful eye, thanks in large part to the disastrous tax cuts passed last year.

But it wouldn’t be fair to the millions of people harmed by Ryan’s political choices to assess his legacy based on his faux concern over the federal budget alone.

Time after time, Ryan has let his “moderate” mask slip to show the real motives for his policies — to further enrich the wealthy while pretending to have the poor’s interest at heart. He adopted the mantle of fiscal responsibility to advocate slashing social programs designed to protect the most vulnerable, while offering bigger and bigger handouts to the wealthiest.

Take those tax cuts. Just months after they passed, Ryan tried his hand at selling the hugely unpopular legislation to the American public by tweeting about a Pennsylvania secretary receiving an extra $1.50 a week in her paycheck.

How much do, say, the Koch brothers stand to gain from that bill? $1.4 billion a year, as Americans for Tax Fairness pointed out.

Look at the so-called “opportunity zones” embedded in that same tax bill, which Ryan calls a critical part of his “poverty fighting agenda.” Ryan said he’d spent years trying to enact these tax breaks for developers building in low-income communities. But it’s a recipe for increased gentrification that could displace the very low-income people Ryan promises they’ll help. Goldman Sachs is already reaping the benefits.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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