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.

20 thoughts on “When Political Ideology Is a Religion

  1. Of course, it’s all morality and faith. Knowledge and facts are kryptonite for those people on the right. And they feel that, and stick to what they do best, point at everyone but themselves. But especially at those below them, or the wrong color, or sexual orientation.
    I think until they start to see people literally dying in the streets, no one will pay any attention. And even then, I’m not sure it’s make any difference.
    Churches are running out of food and money for shelters and food banks. Right now, people have hunkered down. People like me live with their parents, after having been independent for over 30 years. Parent’s are moving in with kids. Families are stretched very thin. But we can’t ask the fat cats for one more thin dime.
    America: One rightiously fucked-up nation. We are a well armed madhouse, and the inmates are close to taking over.
    The world would laugh, except for one thing – when previous empires fell, they weren’t as well armed as we are, with weapons that could literally destroy the world in a matter of minutes. Not China, not Egypt, not Greece, not Rome, Britain, not anyone.

    This is Ronald Reagan’s legacy: Mourning in America.

  2. But, but, but . . . doesn’t Jesus preach in the Bible about helping the less fortunate. Boy, would these guys fail “the what would Jesus do” test so badly.

  3. A Republican at lunch today insisted that banks are so heavily regulated and audited that they could not possibly do anything wrong, so all current problems are the fault of government via Freddie and Fannie. Same 1950’s immigrant sees all problems as lack of responsibility on the part of individuals with a strong dose of “I got mine” as a chaser. Having benefitted from arriving during the nation’s most prosperous period and infrastructure programs didn’t seem to be related to current prosperity. This sort of mindset allows Ryan’s assertions and lack of facts to seem like policy thinking. I can’t imagine such a person reading, let alone believing, any critique that contradicts Ryan’s fiction/distortion “plan” or even bothering to read the thing itself.

  4. Correct. Ryan and other people like him expect their audience will listen to their own pre-packaged “facts” and that they won’t engage in learning, critical thinking, or self-education.

  5. Ryan is just pandering to his base. He doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about and he knows his audience doesn’t have a clue either. As long as Obama and the Democrats are portrayed as the bad guys and that they are hurting America, then Ryan will be well pleased with his second rate performance. I must be getting old because I see Ryan as being just a stupid kid.

  6. Morality isn’t the right word for it, because as Bonnie pointed out upstream, Jesus spent plenty of time talking about taking care of others (see Matthew 25 – “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…”). In fact he spent more time talking about money and our attachment to it, and the class of people in his day, the Pharisees, who were particularly attached to money “they love money”, than he did about any particular vices, such as adultery or homosexuality – the areas that get social conservatives’ panties all in a knot.

    It’s more accurate to say they’ve elevated a particular virtue, prudence or frugality over another virtue, generosity. But even this doesn’t capture it, because in the Republican mind, there’s an unlimited generosity for anything that goes BOOM and keeps their enemies away.

    These people twist genuine spirituality into a safe little perversion that keeps themselves comfortable at the expense of everyone else. Morality has nothing to do with it.

    • Morality isn’t the right word for it, because as Bonnie pointed out upstream, Jesus spent plenty of time talking about taking care of others (see Matthew 25 – “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…”).

      I’m not saying their ideas are moral. This is “morality” in a kind of generic or relative sense; it’s whatever their inner biases tell them what is righteous and what isn’t.

  7. About 30 years ago in college, I took a class called ‘American Political Thought’. It was taught by a highly qualified poly-sci professor who was also a black ordained baptist minister. In a nutshell, not long ago, government and religious authority were one. Later,(post Martin Luther – 1520) with the rise of nationalism in Europe and the emergence of protestant religions, quasi-secular governments were married to religions. The church endorsed the ‘crown’ as anointed by God and the government protected the church monopoly on salvation. The alliance had very little to do with the teachings of Christ.

    Quite possibly, the only original concept that the American founding fathers tried to implement was a ‘divorce’ between secular government and organized religion. Which they did with great success, if you compare the US to other countries.

    Individuals who suffer from religious indoctrination are often unable to draw a line between the articles of faith of their religion and the laws which SHOULD govern a secular country which is forbidden to embrace the religious tenets of ANY faith. They are perpetually in denial of the divorce. What’s not properly recognized is the NEW ALLIANCE. Instead of government being married to religion, the new courtship is between BIG MONEY and religion. Evangelicals have adopted low taxes as an article of religious faith. Big Money has promised evangelicals that they will be allowed to pursue their moral agenda (which big business could care less about) as long as intrusive government is curtailed. For evangelicals the ‘intrusion’ has legitimized homosexuals as people instead of deviates and the courts have denied as a legal standard life at conception. For Big Business, the ‘intrusion’ is taxation, government regulation in finance, the EPA in mining and drilling, etc.

  8. I’m just over 50. I’ve been paying into SS for a long time. I will not tolerate ANY GOP swine touching ONE CENT of my future benefits. Retirement plans are long gone. My 401 k ain’t what it used to be, due to the Bush Depression. It’s supposed to be a “3 legged stool” and all 3 legs look wobbly.

  9. “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.”

    What a vile comment! I think I’ve heard that one before…it sounds a little Reganesque with visions of Cadillac driving welfare queens and generational parasites sucking the life blood out of American exceptionalism.

    • Swami — Yes, 31 years ago white working class folks flocked to vote for Reagan because of those welfare queens. But now some of them (or their children) are the welfare queens! Maybe this was Reagan’s plan for a post-racial America.

  10. The “hammock” remark instantly reminded me of the Reagan “welfare queens,” too. It’s a dog-whistle that can be heard by attuned human ears.

    The GOP has clung to that mentality since the early 1980s. They tried to blame anti-“redlining” regulations dating back to the late 1970s for the subprime mortgage fiasco of 30 years later, even though that scapegoating makes no sense on any level.

    The report on that recent fiasco is much in the news this morning. As I understand it, commission members who happen to be Republicans have dissented to the report by clinging to similar arguments: government regs that level the playing field for the poor and minorities are to blame for the financial crisis.

    Nothing new under the GOP’s sun, that’s for sure.

  11. And another thing: We keep hearing about taking a “common sense” approach to government. If that is such a good idea, why has no one opened a “common sense brain surgery” outlet in the mall, or sent up a “common sense rocket” ?

    If the Republicans can have such uniformity on their talking points that they seem like Stepford liars, why can’t the Democrats message any better?

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  13. tom b – Prepare yourself. Ryan’s ‘voucher’ plan for Medicare would set the value of the voucher in stone – that is no matter how much the cost of health insurance rose (it rose 87% between 2000 and 2006) your voucher’s worth would not change. Upshot, you’d end up having to pay out of pocket about 90% of the cost of health insurance.

    Off point but a more timely example of how we’re getting screwed royally. A woman related her experience of having her house recently foreclosed by her lender. She’d paid $152,000 for it: Paid down the loan to $101,000: Her lender almost doubled the interest rate on her loan: She couldn’t meet the payments: The lender foreclosed: The woman had to move out: The bank/lender turned around and sold her foreclosed house for $123,000. And she is without legal recourse because the bank/lender broke no law because Congress has made and will not make laws to protect us, the people.

  14. Felicity, I believe I’d do a bit of “remodeling” on the way out, I’m particularly fond of black walls and large steel “sculptures” welded in place, and I love to grow mold and store toxic waste, it’s a facinating hobby………

  15. erinyes….Make sure you spray a generous application(drench) of Dursban or Malathion up in the attic to get rid of those pesky attic aphids. The bank and any potential buyers can do their home inspection from the street by using their nostrils.

  16. erinyes – I actually know of a case when a disgruntled tenant asked to move for months of unpaid back rent, carefully removed the ceiling molding above the kitchen cabinets, stuffed the spaces with old hamburger, replaced the molding (hamburger exposed but unseeable) and moved out.

    Detecting the smell of rotten flesh, it took the owner weeks to locate the source. Revenge, they name is rotten flesh.

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