The Ryan Budget

House Republicans can call their budget a “Path to Prosperity” all they want, but as far as the American Majority is concerned, it’s a path to political defeat for the politicians who support it—if progressives make the right arguments in favor of an alternative that grows the economy and protects the middle class.

That’s what a new survey of 56 “battleground” congressional districts released today by Democracy Corps and Women’s Voices/Women Vote shows. In these districts the House Republican budget—for which Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has been the chief architect and salesman—only gets 41 percent support “without any description.” When people are told that the Ryan budget “cuts taxes for corporations and those making over one million dollars a year,” “repeals the health care reform law and the Wall Street reform law,” and would “phase out traditional Medicare over the next decade, replacing it with a voucher system,” support for the Ryan budget drops to 34 percent.

“The more voters hear about the Republicans’ newest Ryan budget the more sharply they turn against the Ryan budget and these Republican incumbents,” pollster Stan Greenberg wrote in a memo about the poll. “To be sure, Americans remain deeply concerned about government spending—and Republicans do get heard when they talk about how vulnerable our debt makes the country in the long term—but Americans are poised to punish those who would balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the middle class.”

The poll also confirmed what has been discovered in other recent polls, which is that majorities in both political parties support a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans as part of a holistic deficit-reduction plan. “Indeed, more than half of all voters in these Republican districts say they want to vote for a candidate who will raise taxes on the wealthiest, compared to just 42 percent who say that there should be no tax increases.” Greenberg calls the Republican obsession with protecting the wealthy from any tax increases their “greatest vulnerability.”

While arguments about what the Ryan budget does to Medicaid, Medicare and health care reform all help to drive up negatives about the plan, the survey gave a slight edge to the tax argument: 64 percent of those polls said they would have serious or very serious doubts about a candidate who “voted to raise taxes on middle class and working families in order to pay for tax cuts for CEOs, big corporations that outsource jobs, big oil companies that are more profitable than ever, and millionaires and billionaires, giving them a tax break of 265,000 dollars on top of the Bush tax cuts.”

But Greenberg noted that pointing out what the Ryan Republican budget does to the most economically vulnerable raises the negatives of the candidates who support it. Fifty-six percent said they had serious or very serious doubts about a candidate who voted for a budget that would “leave our most vulnerable citizens out in the cold during hard times, with 62 percent of the cuts coming from programs for lower-income Americans who are struggling most during the recession, including food stamps, aid for college education, federal housing aid and health care.”

In that context, what House Republicans are doing this week is not only immoral but politically insane.

The House Ways and Means Committee was scheduled today to take up legislation that would curtail health care subsidies for working-class families, limit the Child Tax Credit to parents with Social Security numbers and eliminate the Social Services Block Grant, which funded health and other services in low-income communities. Also, Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee today voted to reduce funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which would mean an average 11 percent cut in benefits for recipients. That proposal, when it was first broached this week, drew a rebuke from several Catholic bishops, to which House Speaker John Boehner responded, in essence, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. From The Hill:

“I want them to take a bigger look,” Boehner said at a Wednesday press conference. “And the bigger look is, if we don’t make decisions, these programs won’t exist, and then they’ll really have something to worry about.”

Actually, Boehner should not suggest that the bishops take a bigger look, because if they do, they might see this:

House Conservatives Want to Cut Child and Elderly Programs Instead of Nuclear Stockpiles: Center for American Progress graphic.

This latest poll does not say that Democrats and progressives have the election locked up; progressive candidates still have to make convincing arguments that their policies present a viable plan to move the economy and the country forward. But as the cruel implications of their budget proposals become more evident, Republicans continue to shoot themselves in the foot with astonishing aim.