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Who is the Second Most Dangerous Politician in America?

Mar. 14, 2017
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From the moment Donald Trump gained the powers of the presidency, he instantly became the most dangerous politician in America. We suddenly had a president eager to take impulsive, extreme actions based on falsehoods and prejudices instead of reality and facts.

Not everyone realizes, though, that the second most dangerous politician in America is Paul Ryan, the mild-mannered congressman from Wisconsin. Ryan rose to Speaker of the House based upon his ability to make extreme right-wing legislation sound almost reasonable.

What frightens many Americans about Trump is no one, including probably Trump himself, has any idea what he might do next. Very little of what he says is true. Trump has made it clear he doesn’t intend to be restrained by conventional politics, the Constitution or even common decency. Ryan is nearly as dangerous for a very different reason. The most frightening thing about Ryan is sometimes he means exactly what he says.

The current Republican battle over destroying President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) shows how a focused, determined congressman with an extreme agenda might be even more dangerous than a highly disorganized wild-man president. As is typical, Trump’s approach began with an outrageous lie. He announced, immediately upon taking office, that within days he would complete a terrific health care plan covering everybody in America at a fraction of the cost of Obamacare. That wasn’t true, of course; Trump had no plan at all. He was waiting for Ryan to come up with one that would have a chance of passing the House and the Senate. 

No one who knew anything about the extreme right-wing budgets Ryan created for House Republicans would expect him to design a massive new government program providing health care for every American. Ryan doesn’t believe in massive government programs. Ryan believes in eliminating government programs benefitting Americans to give massive tax cuts to the wealthy. He’s advocated rolling back not only the Affordable Care Act, but even the nation’s most successful government programs dating back to Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt, including Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

 

Destroying Health Care for 24 Million 

So, no surprise, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office Ryan’s plan would destroy health insurance for 24 million Americans over the next 10 years, more than wiping out all those who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The real purpose isn’t health care. It’s to eliminate $600 billion in taxes, primarily for the wealthy, while also reducing the federal deficit by another $337 billion. 

Ryan put the plan together behind closed doors without consulting anyone delivering health care. That’s why his plan also ran into a solid wall of opposition from health care providers, including the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans. Politically, the loony, fringe, extreme-right Freedom Caucus derided the plan as RyanCare and RINOCare (Republican-In-Name-Only Care) because it doesn’t completely eviscerate the ACA. At the same time, some moderate Senate Republicans worried about the backlash from millions of voters suddenly losing their health insurance.

It says a lot about Republicans these days that Ryan was far more concerned about losing support from the far right than he was about all the devastating problems cited by doctors, hospitals and insurance companies as a result of millions of people losing health insurance. He appealed to the radical right by declaring that, if they accepted his more gradual obliteration of Obamacare, it could usher in the sort of Golden Age of Right-Wing Extremism he has worked toward for his entire career.

“This is a monumental, exciting, conservative reform,” Ryan said. “I’ve been working on this for 20 years. This is exciting. This is what we’ve been dreaming about doing.” It’s not an overstatement to say achieving Ryan’s career-long dreams would be a nightmare for millions of Americans. Forget Ryan’s tour of impoverished inner cities pretending to be one of those rare Republicans who care about the poor. Every single budget Ryan crafted for House Republicans would have pushed the families living in those neighborhoods deeper into poverty.

A mythology has grown up around Ryan that he’s a courageous politician because he’s dared to publicly threaten such vitally important programs as Social Security and Medicare and survived politically. Not even that TV commercial of a clean-cut, young look-alike pushing granny’s wheelchair over a cliff ended his career. No one ever took Ryan seriously before because we’ve never had a president who actually might consider destroying those programs. Even Trump once blamed Mitt Romney’s presidential defeat on choosing Ryan as his running mate.

But now Trump has Ryan excitingly writing legislation destroying health care coverage for millions instead of covering everyone as Trump once swore he would. Ryan promises this is only the beginning of a 20-year-old plot to dismantle decades of basic government programs protecting every American citizen. Ryan has his eye on that Number One spot.

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