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Paul Ryan is making Donald Trump worse

This commentary originally ran on ThinkProgress.org.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is meeting with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump Thursday after Ryan declined to endorse Trump last week, saying he's looking for "a standard-bearer that bears our standards."

Paul Ryan and Donald Trump
Reuters
Paul Ryan and Donald Trump

Ryan has previously denounced Trump's inflammatory tone because, he said in March, "the Republican Party does not prey on people's prejudices."

Yet Trump and Ryan's standards may not be so far apart when it comes to policy. And Ryan appears to already be pulling Trump toward his own extreme positions.

Donald Trump has repeatedly and emphatically promised to protect major entitlement programs Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from cuts during his race for the presidency. That stands in stark contrast with various plans Paul Ryan has released over the years that helped fuel his rise within his party. Ryan's desire to change Social Security goes back to his 2005 attempts to privatize the program and continued with the inclusion of that idea in some of his budget proposals. Meanwhile, all of his budget plans have proposed replacing Medicare with vouchers and block granting Medicaid.

Ahead of their confab this week, however, a key Trump adviser appeared to shift his candidate's staunch stance. Sam Clovis, chief policy adviser for the campaign, said at an event on Wednesday that changes to these programs could be considered under a Trump administration. "After the administration has been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare," he said. "We'll start taking a hard look at those to start seeing what we can do in a bipartisan way."

Clovis said that Trump won't be championing any changes for now. But, he added, "We have to start taking a look not just at Medicare and Social Security but every program we have out there, because the budgetary discipline that we've shown over the last 84 years has been horrible."

That should be music to Ryan's ears. The House Speaker has not only championed reductions in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but also endorses steep cuts to a number of other lifelines like food stamps, K-12 education, Pell Grants, and welfare.

There are other areas where Trump and Ryan can still find common ground. Take taxes. Last year, Trump released a detailed tax plan that would hand the wealthy nearly 40 percent of the benefits and just over 16 percent to the bottom three-fifths of the country, in the end costing the government nearly $10 trillion over a decade. That's not so different from changes Ryan has put forward himself. The tax cuts in his 2013 budget would have cost $6 trillion, and while there weren't as many details, it would have handed "extremely large new tax cuts" to the rich, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, while potentially requiring increases on families who made less than $200,000.

Trump is now in the process of rewriting his plan to bring down the cost, but the general outlines will likely still adhere to Ryan's. The proposed changes so far would keep most of the tax breaks for the rich while losing some for the middle class and poor.

Trump and Ryan have also long been in complete agreement that the Affordable Care Act — which has led to a huge increase in the number of Americans with health insurance and particularly benefited people of color, the poor, and those with preexisting medical conditions — should be repealed entirely.

And while Ryan has spoken out against Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the country, he still called for pausing the intake of Syrian refugees into the United States after the terrorist attacks in Paris, even though the only identified suspects in the attacks have been European nationals.

Commentary by Bryce Covert, the economic policy editor for ThinkProgress, a political-news blog that is a project of the Center for the American Progress Action Fund. Follow her on Twitter @brycecovert.

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