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Paul Ryan is lying to you about the Children’s Health Insurance Program

Have you no decency?

Majority Leader Paul Ryan Holds Weekly Press Conference At The Capitol Win McNamee/Getty Images
Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

Paul Ryan’s absolute greatest passion in life, the thing that drives him and underlies all of his work in public office, is destroying government programs for poor and low-income people.

This was behind his 2005 push to privatize Social Security; it’s behind the budgets he released every single year from 2008 to 2014, which dramatically slashed everything from Medicare to Medicaid to food stamps; it’s behind his “poverty plan” that promised to block-grant food stamps and Medicaid and thus eliminate the federal guarantee that the poor won’t die from starvation or lack of medical care; it’s behind his proposal to take money away from poor disabled people and slap ineffective and vindictive work requirements on every program in sight.

Paul Ryan is a guy who, by his own recollection, has been dreaming of taking health care away from poor people since he was “drinking out of kegs,” and who makes his interns read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, an extended argument for the moral precept that poor people are stupid and lazy and do not deserve help from anybody.

This person, on Friday, condemned Democrats for … not wanting to give health care to poor and middle-class children.

Let me be very, very clear. Paul Ryan is the speaker of the US House of Representatives. He has been speaker since October 29, 2015. That’s six months after the last time Congress funded the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Ryan has known, for his entire time as speaker, that funding for CHIP would expire on September 30, 2017.

He had ample opportunities to address that. He could’ve reached out to President Obama and offered to extend it for several more years. He could have agreed to make it an entitlement, like Medicaid, whose funding does not have to be continually reauthorized. Obama, I guarantee you, would have leaped at the opportunity to permanently enshrine and fund a vital program that gives health care to 9 million poor and middle-class kids.

Ryan, if he were so passionate about CHIP, could have made its renewal a priority in 2017, under unified Republican control of government. He could have introduced a simple bill funding it for a few more years, or many more years, and brought it to a vote in the House. Democrats would have helped it easily evade a filibuster in the Senate.

It would have cost a mild amount of money, but given Ryan’s passion for huge deficit-expanding tax cuts, that shouldn’t be a problem, if he genuinely thinks CHIP is a hugely important program that must be jealously guarded, the way he jealously guards corporate tax cuts. Indeed, Ryan, mere years earlier, supported a permanent CHIP extension as part of a deficit-increasing “doc fix” package. Why is this any different?

Or Ryan could have made CHIP renewal a part of the tax bill he pushed through Congress this winter. The bill as it is cost more than $1 trillion over 10 years. And because of the interaction between CHIP and the bill’s repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate, adding in a 10-year CHIP renewal would have saved money. It would have made it easier for the tax bill’s numbers to work.

Ryan didn’t do any of these things because when he expresses concern about the fate of CHIP, and chides Democrats for not being serious enough about funding it, he’s lying. His worries are a feint, an act of concern trolling. He didn’t do any of the above actions to defend CHIP because he doesn’t care about CHIP.

He does not think it is a good thing for the government to make poor people’s lives easier. It’s a sincere ideological commitment he has, and he should be honest with the American people about it.

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