Commentary: GOP's budget unravels social safety net

As wrangling over this year's budget threatened to shut down the federal government, House Republicans last week unveiled their plan for next year and beyond.

It would junk the American social contract and produce a massive transfer of wealth from those at the bottom and middle of the economy to those at the top.

The author, House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is being heaped with praise for having the political courage to force a reckoning with the sacrifices required to tame the $14 trillion national debt.

And give him credit for making one thing clear: We can no longer pretend that a just and decent society is possible without paying for it.

Despite the accolades, Ryan's ideas are not new. What he offers is a steroidal version of the Republican playbook from the George W. Bush era: tax cuts for the rich, wink-and-nod regulation of Wall Street and a surrender of Americans' medical care to the insurance industry.

We've been there, done that and ended up in the deepest hole since the 1930s. The stock market and corporate profits have rebounded, but unemployment remains too high — 1 in 10 Kentuckians — and average Americans are economically insecure.

Not surprisingly, given the Republican record on deficit spending, Ryan's plan would not balance the budget for 20 years.

Meanwhile, the spending cuts, along with the end of temporary federal programs to save teachers' jobs and prop up state and local governments, could snuff out the recovery, without making a dent in the deficit.

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