The Wall Street Journal ignored Republican legislative priorities to claim that President Obama demonized his opponents by saying they are suspicious of Social Security, helping kids in poverty get enough to eat, or providing government funding for medical research. In fact, the Republican budget guru, Rep. Paul Ryan has made proposals to gut Social Security, programs to help feed low-income children, and medical research funding. And the Journal has endorsed many of these proposals.
During a January 14 press conference, President Obama said:
[House Republicans] have a particular vision about what government should and should not do. So they are suspicious about government's commitments, for example, to make sure that seniors have decent health care as they get older. They have suspicions about Social Security. They have suspicions about whether government should make sure that kids in poverty are getting enough to eat, or whether we should be spending money on medical research. So they've got a particular view of what government should do and should be.
A Wall Street Journal editorial responded to that passage by accusing Obama of “attributing to his political opponents only base motives and beliefs they don't come close to holding.” The paper dared Obama to “identify by name those who want to repeal Social Security, steal food from orphans and cancel science funding.” But it's not hard to find a Republican who advocates the cuts Obama named. One has to look no further than Ryan, the Chairman of the House Budget Committee and the Republicans' 2012 vice presidential nominee.
In 2010, Paul Ryan released a budget proposal that would have partially privatized Social Security by diverting “large sums from Social Security to private accounts,” which would “leave the program facing insolvency in about 30 years,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Ryan proposed even more drastic cuts to Social Security in 2004 when he sought to divert half of the funds for Social Security into private accounts.
Ryan has also authored budget proposals that would result in large cuts from programs that primarily serve low- and moderate-income taxpayers including food stamps. Ryan's 2012 budget, which the Wall Street Journal supported, plan called for $134 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) benefits. A March 2012 analysis of the plan from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities detailed where the cuts in Ryan's plan would come from:
The documents also show $166 billion in mandatory cuts in the education, training, employment, and social services portion of the budget (function 500), which, based on the discussion in the Ryan budget documents, would likely come mainly from the mandatory portion of the Pell Grant program for low-income students.
The report included this chart:
Paul Ryan's budget would have almost certainly resulted in huge cuts to medical research. Ryan's 2012 proposal included cuts to all non-defense discretionary spending, which includes grant funding for medical and scientific research, that would have reduced spending from 12.5 percent of GDP to a paltry 3.75 percent by 2050, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Reducing the level of spending by that much would essentially mean doing away with all but the most basic functions of government, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Since, as CBO notes, “spending for defense alone has not been lower than 3 percent of GDP in any year [since World War II]” and Ryan seeks a high level of defense spending -- he increases defense funding by $228 billion over the next ten years above the pre-sequestration baseline -- the rest of government would largely have to disappear. That includes everything from veterans' programs to medical and scientific research, highways, education, nearly all programs for low-income families and individuals other than Medicaid, national parks, border patrols, protection of food safety and the water supply, law enforcement, and the like.
The Journal itself supported Ryan and his proposed cuts, praising Ryan as “a man who has offered reforms that the country needs.” The paper has also expressed support for the ending Social Security as we know it and moving to private accounts. In September 2011, the editorial board opined:
Everyone serious knows what the reform options are -- from changing the benefits schedule, to “progressive indexing,” to raising the retirement age. We'd prefer private accounts so that young people could build wealth as a property right and not depend on the promises of politicians, while the money would be put to productive economic use in the meantime.
Much as the Journal would like to hide it, leading Republicans -- and the Journal itself -- have endorsed large cuts to Social Security, food stamps, and medical research.