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by Michael Cuenco
Monday, 19
June 2023
Debate
18:10

The Republican Party belongs to Paul Ryan — not Donald Trump

Tax cuts and austerity measures remain the GOP's main priority
by Michael Cuenco
Donald Trump and Paul Ryan at the U.S. Capitol. Credit: Getty

Fresh from the debt ceiling standoff, the Republican party faces a new internal battle, this time on entitlements. The latest proposal is to raise the eligibility age for Social Security retirement benefits from 67 to 69 among other things. But what is striking is how such plans appear to resemble the GOP of old, illustrating that grip that this wing of the party still has in elite Republican circles.

Indeed, the current plan proposed by the Republican Study Committee (RSC) bears a striking similarity to the ones floated by Paul Ryan, a fiscal hawk who served as speaker of the House of Representatives from 2015-2019. In addition, the RSC plan looks to entrench Ryan-era and other tax cuts (totalling $5.1 trillion over ten years) while relying on steep spending cuts ($16.3 trillion over ten years) to balance the budget.

These ideas were presented as a necessary fix to the perennial problem of Social Security insolvency, but what’s been conspicuous so far is the silence of the GOP’s 2024 presidential candidates with respect to this proposal: in particular, the frontrunner for the nomination, Donald Trump, who has usually been quite vocal on the issue.

Trump has alternated between being a passive supporter of his party’s pro-austerity, small-government fixations, such as when he signed the largely Paul Ryan-designed 2017 tax cut, and being a vocal dissenter against those same orthodoxies, like when he came out against “people that want to destroy our great Social Security system” and “that want to raise the minimum age of Social Security to 70, 75…”. Here he sounded more like a Democrat than a traditional Republican.

It’s also noteworthy that Trump’s ideological foil, Ryan, recently emerged from retirement to attack the former president, whose administration he effectively used as a vehicle when he was Speaker to pass his beloved tax cuts. After all, it was Trump who pledged earlier this year that: “we are never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove, and Jeb Bush.”

In that same speech delivered in March, Trump came out in favour of spectacular policies like building “Freedom Cities” and giving out “baby bonuses,” articulating an expansive populist vision of government that would entail massive expenditures and run contrary to the fiscal inclinations of groups like the RSC and the Freedom Caucus.

Trump has also used entitlements to distinguish himself from main rival Ron DeSantis, whom he once called a “wheelchair over the cliff kind of guy” for supporting similar measures in the past: it’s a position that Republicans and Democrats alike see as politically very potent on the campaign trail. The former president is clearly aware that slashing entitlements are an unpopular issue, particularly with his older voting base. 

Yet on this issue, he largely stands alone among Republican leaders. Despite the fact that it is Trump who is leading the pack of presidential aspirants while Ryan is at best forgotten and at most reviled by the Republican base (and notwithstanding a small handful of authentically populist Senators), it’s clear judging from the 175 RSC House members who put their name to the budget proposal, that in terms of economic policy, institutional culture, and day-to-day governance, the Republicans are still overwhelmingly the party of Ryan rather than the party of Trump.

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Billy Bob
Billy Bob
5 months ago

Much like the Tories in Britain, it seems the Republican Party members are much more financially right wing than their voters. Much of the working classes they target have long since given up on the Reagan/Thatcher inspired ideology of ever more austerity and leaving everything to the market, as it has simply led to their jobs moving offshore, curtailing any union power to stagnate wages and soaring property prices due to immigration and the greed of unregulated bankers.
The reason Boris and Trump (for all their colossal flaws) were able to attract the new voters they did is because they offered an alternative to what had been peddled before (Johnson’s levelling up, Trumps more protectionist trade policies). The fact neither followed through on that mandate was a tremendous disappointment, but if either party could find somebody to carry on those types of policy who isn’t a total charlatan they’d be onto a winner

Emil Castelli
Emil Castelli
5 months ago

”Tax cuts and austerity measures remain the GOP’s main priority”
BS – they are pell-mell charging for the cliff edge of economic collapse, hand in hand with the Democrats, to hurl the nation off to shatter on the rocks below.

The Uniparty has two flavors, Woke and Patriot. But they are two sides of the same Globalist Coin.

To get the Great Reset, to cause CBDCs to own us all and usher in Feudalism – the economy must be destroyed. They pretend the opposite – but they are all just Lizards in human skins, and all after the same thing, our enslavement.

This is why Trump is the last chance; he never had to climb the greasy pole of the elections which the ‘Donor Class’ finance, and thus own the souls of the Politicos. It is Trump, or the Lizards – the world hangs in the balance……..

Terry M
Terry M
5 months ago
Reply to  Emil Castelli

Trump is a big spender, so he’s not the last chance. It would have been great if he had actually drained some of the Swamp, but he did very little while spending like a Democrat. Only the tax cuts, which he embraced as a candidate, were fiscally conservative.
I don’t believe the political class has bad intentions – it’s worse than that. They believe they are helping and so will do anything to us with a clear conscience.
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscienceC S Lewis

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
5 months ago

The new GOP is decidedly post-liberal and anti-woke. However, there are lots of safe districts in America, so it takes a while for the JD Vances of the world to displace the Mitt Romneys and Paul Ryans. But they will.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
5 months ago

Does he still sing with Barry Ryan?

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
5 months ago

Trump’s not hiding anything when it comes to Social Security. He recently said that he would not changed a thing. That said, it’s hard to believe that he actually believes what he says as the national debt approaches $32 trillion. In fiscal matters, he’s a pragmatist. So his position sounds like one of political opportunism at the moment.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
5 months ago

How we need the decent, sober-minded voices of real conservatives like Paul Ryan. Donald Trump is none of those things, never has been and never will be. He is a cult leader at best, a deranged tyrant-in-the-making at worst.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
5 months ago
Reply to  Gerald Arcuri

To be a tyrant requires a level of intelligence Trump simply doesn’t possess. If he wasn’t born rich he’d have struggled to get a job as a dustman