Steven Taylor, one of the few self-identified “conservative” bloggers I actually respect — well, OK, the only one I respect — asks of the Ryan budget plan — WTF does the GOP intend to do with it? Are they actually thinking of trying to pass it? Are they crazy?
Remember: we know that some attendees of Tea Party rallies have brandished signs demanding that the government keep its hands off Medicare.* Further, many Republicans ran for office in 2010 by campaigning on the notion that the PPACA was damaging to Medicare (for example: Coates Ad: Obama Forcing Seniors into “Government Run Healthcare” and Blunt Ad Complains of Cutting Medicare…to Support “Government-Run Health Care”).
Remember also (and more importantly): the public overwhelmingly opposes Medicare cuts: “76% of respondents oppose cutting Medicare (30% find it “unacceptable” and 46% find it “totally unacceptable”)” (see link for details on the given poll—which replicates a consistent result in poll after poll on this topic).
So again: will the GOP actually go to the mattresses for this plan?
Let me give you my utterly unsupported guess as to what’s going on with Ryan and his budget — Ryan’s plan actually has been rattling around for several months, under the title “Roadmap for America’s Future.” And it got mentioned a lot in GOP talking points, although until recently you had to wade into the fine print on your own initiative to understand what the plan actually provides.
My impression all along has been that the GOP kept bringing it up not because they were all in love with Ryan’s ideas — although destroying Medicare is always a plus for them — but because it was the closest thing the GOP had to a concrete deficit-reduction proposal. So, for most of them, it was a prop. It was a stack of paper they could wave around and claim to be a plan that would solve everyone’s problems while they carped ceaselessly on whatever it was President Obama was doing.
Ryan himself — possibly not the sharpest pencil in the box — may not have understood it was the appearance of a plan, not the plan itself, that had value to the GOP. So a couple of weeks ago, from his position as chair of the House Budget Committee, he submitted the thing as a serious proposal.
Given Ryan’s timing, he might have thought that popular support in Washington for his ideas would cause Congress to drop other budget bills in progress and adopt his budget instead. And given the pundit-world swoon that followed, one suspects that the Puppet Masters were behind the release of the budget and had put out a general order to the puppets to start swooning.
One thing to keep in mind about the Puppet Masters is that most of them became rich and powerful because they inherited more money than God. And while they may possess a large degree of shrewdness, it’s a myopic kind of shrewdness. I suspect their “smarts” have serious limits. They may have imagined they could use their influence to get some version of the Ryan budget passed into law. And it may have just dawned on them over the past couple of days that they made a huge miscalculation. This would account for the over-the-top hysteria in right-wing media — if Daddy ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
President Obama’s decision to stay behind the scenes until Ryan threw his pitch may turn out to be one of the smartest moves he ever made. If the Dems play this right — please — the Ryan budget could become the Mother of All Wedge Issues and an albatross to hang around the neck of every Republican running in 2012.
See also: Paul Krugman, “Who’s Serious Now?”
Update: What makes anyone think the President didn’t know full well the microphone was on? This is exactly the kind of thing the President needs to be saying to everyone, loudly and often.
Update: Ryan and his fellow travelers think the President was being mean to them in his speech last week.
They expected a peace offering, a gesture of goodwill aimed at smoothing a path toward compromise. But soon after taking their seats at George Washington University on Wednesday, they found themselves under fire for plotting “a fundamentally different America” from the one most Americans know and love.
“What came to my mind was: Why did he invite us?” Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said in an interview Thursday. “It’s just a wasted opportunity.”
The situation was all the more perplexing because Obama has to work with these guys: Camp is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, responsible for trade, taxes and urgent legislation to raise the legal limit on government borrowing. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.) chairs the House Republican Conference. And Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is House Budget Committee chairman and the author of the spending blueprint Obama lacerated as “deeply pessimistic” during his 44-minute address.
Unbelievable. I’m starting to think Ryan really is a clueless wonder. See also Matt Yglesias.