The High Cost of Tom Price’s Radical Agenda

Terrance Heath

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) is the new chair of the House Budget Committee. Just who is Rep. Tom Price? What will his conservative economic ideology cost us?

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was arguably the most famous, and perhaps most-photographed, House Budget Committee chair in a long time. Maybe ever. Now, Ryan will apply his blue-eyed earnestness and “aw shucks” manner to pushing right-wing tax policy on the House Ways and Means Committee. Georgia’s Rep. Tom Price is stepping into Ryan’s shoes at the Budget Committee, as part of the GOP’s all-white, all-male slate of committee chairs.

Besides being a southern transplant from Michigan, a former orthopedic surgeon, and a fan of both Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, Price is a fervent believer in a conservative economic ideology that will lead Republicans to undermine a recovery that hasn’t even reached most Americans.

GovTrack says that Price is a “moderate Republican leader,” based on its analysis. If Price’s wingnuttery is what passes for moderate in today’s Republican party, things are going to get “scary” — whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell likes it or not. Consider:

● On a Tea Party Unity conference call in May, Price shared his fear of the negative health and economic impact of gay rights laws. Price said that “people who wake up one morning and think that they’ve got a grand new way of doing something,” end up becoming “a huge cost-driver to state pensions and other things.”
● During an interview with, Price declared that Obama administration had “led to what many people have called a government that no longer has the consent of the governed.”
● Price cheerfully admitted that House Republicans passed a resolution affirming “In God We Trust,” to “remind the president what the motto of our great country is.” That’s way more important than passing jobs legislation. Right?
● Asked what women who can’t afford birth control should do if insurance won’t cover it, Price said “there’s not one woman” who lacks access. “Bring me one woman who has been left behind.” “There’s not one,” he said. About one-third of female voters have struggled to afford birth control as some point, including 55 percent of young women. Price joined the rest of his caucus in support of defunding Planned Parenthood, which gives low-income women access to contraception and other health services.
● Price famously referred to President Obama’s demand that BP set up a $20 billion “escrow account” for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as “Chicago-style shakedown politics.”

And remember when House Republicans tried to stop the Democratic Women’s Caucus from making their arguments about how the health care bill would benefit women by shouting “I object!” over and over? Rep. Tom Price led the charge.

Price talks the tea party talk, but he’s also a legislator who could do serious damage to the economy, undermining an already-weak recovery. In the last Congress, Price sponsored or supported a number of bills that could come back to haunt us in this Congress.

● In 2012, Price voted for the most radical right-wing budget in American history; one that would: “give every millionaire a brand new $265,000 tax handout, cut funding for the poor by $3.3 trillion, privatize Medicare, and impose spending caps so radical that it would ‘end most of government other than Social Security, health care, and defense by 2050.’”
● Price’s “Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013,” — the GOP’s 40th attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act — would have killed health care reform by blocking the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing or implementing any portion of the law.
● The “Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2014” would have amended the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to require “macroeconomic analysis,” before Congress voted on tax or spending legislation. It was large-scale “dynamic scoring,” which — as Tom Toles depicts it — allows Republicans to holler “touchdown” at the economic 50-yard line, and reward their wealthy patrons with tax cuts, without appearing to add to the deficit they’re so worried about.
● The “Decrease Spending Now Act,” would have imposed $45 billion in cuts to public sector spending, put 440,000 federal employees out of work, reduced the size of the middle class, and increased unemployment, by reducing economic activity. (People who lose their jobs tend to spend less on goods and services, and support fewer jobs.)

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation’s 2015 Conservative Policy Summit on Monday, Price hinted at the same radical agenda. Repeating the conservative mantra, “The problem is the debt,” Price signaled that the “solution” was likely to be cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid disguised as “reforms.” Already, this week the House voted on a rule that could force a crisis by cutting Social Security disability benefits by 20 percent, just in time for 2016. At the summit, Price promised to put even more radical changes on the table.

So all the kinds of things you know about – whether it’s means testing, whether it’s increasing the age of eligibility. The kind of choices — whether it’s providing much greater choices for individuals to voluntarily select the kind of manner in which they believe they ought to be able to invest their working dollars as they go through their lifetime. All those things ought to be on the table and discussed.

In the last Congress, these bills (with the exception of the “Decrease Spending Now Act,” which died in committee) passed the House, but died in the Senate. In this Congress, if any of them pass the Senate, only President Obama’s veto pen and the lack of a veto-proof majority will save Americans from paying the high cost of Tom Price’s radical agenda.

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