Could a populist revolt topple Paul Ryan?

Paul Ryan was the most articulate congressional champion of trickle-down economics during the late 2000s, which is why he was a perfect choice to serve as a running mate for Mitt Romney, whose 2012 campaign pushed a particularly brittle version of the old trickle-down gospel: Cut taxes and regulations on America’s job-creating entrepreneurs (the makers) and soon everyone else (the takers) will be bringing home bigger paychecks and fulfilling the American Dream.

Things have changed an awful lot since 2012. We now live in the age of Trump. But Paul Ryan’s priorities haven’t budged.

While expressing grudging support for the presumptive Republican nominee (despite Trump’s refusal to toe the trickle-down line, and his hostility to Mexican and Muslim immigrants, and his opposition to free trade, and his flirtations with outright racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism), Ryan has continued to propose variations on the tried-and-true trickle-down formula: massive tax cuts for high earners, including cuts to the top marginal income tax rate, capital gains taxes, and dividend taxes, and the complete elimination of the estate tax. Sure, these cuts would supposedly be paired with unspecified closures to tax loopholes (deductions) that would compensate for some of the lost revenue, but there is literally nothing in the record of the last 36 years to give anyone confidence that these would amount to anything like a revenue-neutral swap.

The question is whether Republicans — and in particular, the Republicans of Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District — have finally had enough of fairy tales in which doing the bidding of the wealthy magically produces benefits for everyone else.

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