When Political Ideology Is a Religion

Must-read blog post by Matt Miller on Paul Ryan’s “roadmap”:

According to the Congressional Budget Office, Ryan’s plan would result in annual deficits of between 3.5 and 4.5 percent of GDP between now and somewhere after 2040, with a balanced budget coming only around 2063. This would add at least $62 trillion to the national debt over the period. (My estimate is conservative mostly because the independent Tax Policy Center says Ryan’s tax reforms would produce far less revenue than Ryan required the CBO to assume.)

Michael Tomasky comments:

Ryan’s plan slashes Social Security and Medicare, the latter by 80% around 70 years from now (come to think of it, when my daughter would be using it). It wouldn’t balance the budget, as Miller said, until 2063. It would make the debt problem worse by a staggering $62 trillion. It would slightly raise taxes on the middle class, according to reviews by admittedly liberal (though expert) policy analysis shops.

And why would it do all these things in the name of fiscal prudence? Because in keeping with supply-side religion, it must first and foremost do that which supply-side economics holds as its First Commandment: cut taxes on the morally superior rich. It is madness. It is a joke.

And as Tomasky also points out, Ryan is the GOP’s acknowledged expert on fiscal and budgetary policy. In other words, as insane as Ryan’s ideas are, they’re the best the GOP has.

Of course, few of the American people will ever hear how insane Ryan’s plan is. They especially won’t hear it from Ryan. Joan Walsh writes,

The president was lucky to have not one but two GOP rebuttals, and they were equally strange and dishonest. Rep. Paul Ryan railed against the deficit without proposing even one specific cut. He didn’t talk about his own infamous “Roadmap,” maybe because most analysts have called it a budget buster, even though it essentially replaces Social Security and Medicare with vouchers. The Congressional Budget Office estimates Ryan’s plan wouldn’t balance the budget until 2063, and would add $62 trillion to the debt by then. Citizens for Tax Justice said Ryan’s Roadmap raises taxes on 9 out of 10 taxpayers and while slashing them for the wealthiest.

Wisely, Ryan talked about none of that. He promised to repeal “Obamacare” and replace it with “fiscally responsible patient-centered reform,” but didn’t say word one about what it would entail. Most dishonestly, Ryan said Democrats had overspent “to the point where the president is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit,” ignoring the fact that Congress raised it seven times under President Bush. That’s your new chair of the House Budget Committee. (Update: Somehow I missed the best line in Ryan’s rebuttal, in which he worries we’re headed toward “a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.” I want to ask the 14.5 million unemployed Americans, and the millions more who are underemployed, how they’re enjoying their hammocks. Leave it to a Republican to come up with such vivid metaphors of leisure to talk about suffering. It’s the only way they can relate.)

Paul Krugman wrote a couple of blog posts (“The Ryan Response” and “Shiny Lazy People” in which he points out that Ryan’s SOTU response was one lie after another. But I also want to note that recently Krugman has been commenting that rightie economic policies are not based on analysis and projection of possible results, but on morality. And earlier his week, he wrote a post about the “war” on the idea that a shortage of demand can hurt the economy.

… it’s becoming clear that many people don’t so much disagree with the idea that demand matters as find it abhorrent, incomprehensible, or both. I fairly often get comments to the effect that I can’t possibly believe what I’m saying about monetary or fiscal policy, that no sensible person could believe that printing money or engaging in deficit spending will increase output and employment — never mind that all I’m saying is what Econ 101 textbooks have been saying for the last 62 years. …

… It’s becoming clear to me that a substantial number of writers on economics find the whole idea that the economy can suffer because people are too thrifty, insufficiently willing to spend, deeply repugnant. I’m the sort of person who finds the notion that sometimes virtue is vice and prudence folly interesting; but it’s clear that a number of people find that notion just plain evil. The world shouldn’t be like that — and therefore it isn’t.

It’s also interesting to me that while Republicans blame President Obama’s policies for continued high unemployment, they also seem to cling to the neo-Calvinistic idea that if someone doesn’t have a job (or healthcare, or a home), it’s his own fault, no matter the circumstances. And as Krugman has pointed out in several places recently, righties think that taxing them to provide benefits for others is not just bad policy, but immoral.

So it doesn’t matter to them that the widening income inequality that “conservative” economic policies have brought us lo these past thirty years is damaging to the United States as a whole. Their religion tells them otherwise, and that’s that.