The Ryan Albatross

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 planWTF 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.

24 thoughts on “The Ryan Albatross

  1. There’s no saving “Privatizing Ryan” and his plan.
    Obama called him and the Republicans on this Randian fantasy. I really wish he had given this address to the nation in prime time.
    I heard Ryan being interviewed on NPR yesterday on “All Things Considered.” He was very defensive in what was a tougher interview than I thought, and he though, he’d get. He was defensive. And he told the following whopper – that his plan was designed so that the poorest seniors wouldn’t have to pay a penny. Really? WHERE? He also talked about means testing, which sounds reasonable, but then tums Medicare from a program for EVERYONE, into a welfare program, which would make it easier to target in the future.

    The exisiting and new House and Senate members ran on job creation – but have yet to address the issue, unless you count spending cuts which will REDUCE jobs.
    The existing and new House and Senate members claimed that a vote for Democrats was a vote to cut Medicare – and then proceeded to launch a plan to end Medicare as we know it.

    Right now, the Conservatives will have to expend a lot of time and energy to try to dispell the almost completely negative reaction to “Privatizing Ryan’s” plan. I mean, even many of the MSM members in the deepest stupor were forced to awaken and respond and compare Obama’s plan to Ryan’s.
    The whitewashing has already started with the “Bought and Paid for Right Wing Chorus” of columnists and pun-twits. They’re now trying to cover up this PR nightmare. But they’re attacking from a position of weakness, and not from strength. Obama dictated new terms and a new battlefield.

    Don’t give them an opportunity to gain traction!
    The Democrats need to pound this drum EVERY DAY for the next few years, until it’s ingrained as a meme into the thickest skulls of the knuckledraggers on the Conservative side.
    Here’s what the Democratic message should be to the Teabaggers:
    “Nice Motorized Medicare Scooter you have there. Shame if anything happened to it…”

  2. Hah! The appearance of a plan…and Ryan didn’t get the memo? Maybe he should check to see if there is a “Kick Me” note taped on his back placed there by his GOP buddies. I guess they’re just having some fun in the wingnut initiation process with little Paulie.

  3. Let me add onto your suspicion about the Puppet Masters as you call them – as I’ve wondered about this for some time. These are people who seem both savvy and stupid (and unethical) at the same time. Here’s my theory:

    What happens is you have people who come into money via inheritance. They know nothing else and are raised in a subculture that at best is somewhat distant from the average person – and at worse essentially an aristocratic culture. For all their wealth, they are often insulated from the real world.

    So their activities are based on A) a limited perspective and circle of people, and B) a lack of understanding of the nitty-gritty of life. Thus they make decisions based on this limited circle (and for that limited circle) that are in the larger picture insanely wrong and bad for others. The result is that, in many ways, it is only their money that protects them – and as they undermine the various complex systems that keep society and the nation running, they risk even that.

    This is what you get when you have people who can work The System but don’t understand how The System comes to be. They prey on The System and devour it for their own limited circle.

    As the world gets smaller, as economic changes happen faster, there’s more chance for these pseudo-aristocrats to screw up big time. They may make money, but they also prey on or cause various disasters. The cycle has sped up. The smaller, faster world also means they face new challenges to their insulated lifestyle.

    What we have in the end is a lot of people running the world for themselves with no idea how it works anyway in a time of fast change – where people are noticing.

    • Fang — Yes, and that also accounts for how someone like Steve Forbes could seriously think he had a shot at being elected President. If he hadn’t been born into and insulated by money, he would have been branded a hopeless dork in elementary school and spent his childhood eating lunch by himself. Not that I wish that on anyone, but it’s the truth.

      Of course, it’s possible Forbes knew he didn’t have a shot at being elected President, and was running to get his voice heard, but he already was getting his voice heard.

      And of course, we could ask, what the hell is The Donald up to?

  4. Ryan does have that kind of deer-in-the-headlights look when talking about his budget proposal. And, “Road Map for America’s Future” has the fetid odor of Gingrich (not the ‘sharpest pencil in the box’, propaganda to the contrary) about it.

    I think you’re right on this one, maha. Witless Ryan has unwittingly assumed that his fellow Republicans tell the truth when what they actually do is erect baseless smoke screens to hide their real intentions behind. He took ‘appearance’ for fact.

    And, of course, unless and until emergency rooms refuse to treat incoming cases, without Medicare all those sick seniors will end up in emergency rooms which somebody will have to foot the bill for. Guess who. (Unless of course we can get comfortable with the American landscape looking like Calcutta.)

  5. What makes anyone think the President didn’t know full well the microphone was on?

    I couldn’t help but notice that story was still only second-most-viewed on the linked site, after “Father uses reverse psychology on young son.” Ah, the CBS News demographic and its priorities.

    Also, Fang’s assessment of the aptly-named pseudo-aristocrats reminds me of a beloved quip: “Poor George [H.W. Bush]… he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” (Bless you, Ann, wherever you are.)

  6. At a time when the parties risk economic catastrophe unless they can come together to raise the debt limit, Obama’s partisan tone made no sense, Republicans across Capitol Hill said Thursday. Even some Obama allies wondered whether the president had made a tactical error.

    Seems they couldn’t make sense of the idea that Obama didn’t knuckle under to another one of their hostage situations. So goes the theory of Pavlov’s dog.

  7. @Maha

    I am not sure about Trump myself, but there’s the chance his thought processes are different enough from mine that I can’t really “get” him. However when I try, I come up with this:

    He’s lived entirely in a world of media and self-promotion, and often avoiding responsibility. He’s moved among some powerful people. The presidency to him is just another role, job, scam, what have you. Indeed, it doesn’t matter if he gets it or not, the publicity is still something he craves and uses. He may, literally, NOT care if he gets it or not, he benefits either way.

    Does he “get” the impact this has? No. He doesn’t care. It’s all about him. One big ball of Samsara.

  8. joanr16 – and it was his son about whom Jim Hightower said, “He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”

    I’ve got to quote Lewis Lapham who on applying for a job with the CIA was coached prior to his interview on the “social qualifications” necessary for being considered fit for a career in Spookville.

    1. When standing on the thirteenth tee at the National Golf Links in Southhampton, which club does one take from the bag?
    2. On sailing into Hay Harbor on Fishers Island, what is the direction of the prevailing wind?
    3. Does Muffy Hamilton wear a slip?

  9. First of all, Earlier this week I made a comment in response to Swami’s comment about half nekkid girls beating up homeless men for sport, I was being sarcastic when I said it sounded like “nirvana”.I commented at about 5 A.M. when I’m in a really unique mood.

    Next, regarding “the puppet masters”, I believe George Carlin got it right when he said “they want your retirement”; they do. They want all our “entitlements” so they can gamble on Wall street. A guy named Gerald Celente calls them “the white shoe boys”, and they are rotting out our financial system from the inside out.
    Until they are thrown in shackles, they will continue to buy judges and politicians to get what they want, and the want it all.

    About Trump, a local talk radio host (Orlando) has postulated that Trump is pulling for Obama, acting as a spoiler for the 2012, much like Nader was to Gore.Verry interesting….
    If Obama is smart (no question); he’ll wait to produce “the birth certificate”. Yeah, baby; he’ll wait till the frenzy starts, then clobber the “birthers”.
    Last item, our local bully girl on the school board is about to get her clock cleaned.
    It seems that she has bullied the teachers and principal at her daughter’s HS to get a “B” changed to an “A”, and has been a general pain in the ass.
    I NEVER saw that coming………

    Our Governator Scott announced today that unemployment has dropped since he was sworn in. Cause and effect………..

    Lastly, in response to Chief’s comment about having a different venue to brain storm, I’d LOVE to host an event here in Kissimmee sometime, and actually meet some of the regular commentors. Perhaps that’s something we could make happen this fall, as the weather will soon be brutally hot here.( I don’t have a pool, and I’m too old to run through the sprinklers)Perhaps we can have a discussion about how to make it happen; we could at least jerk some chicken and grill up some beer brats. (and throw down a brew or two!)

    • Lastly, in response to Chief’s comment about having a different venue to brain storm, I’d LOVE to host an event here in Kissimmee sometime, and actually meet some of the regular commentors.

      That would be so cool. New York to Orlando is a pretty cheap trip. Hmm.

  10. Remember the batch of blank pages the Republicans held up during the health care debate? Evidently Ryan hasn’t heard the one about quitting when you’re ahead.

  11. Yeah, I think the major reason Ryan thought he would get a better reception is the echo-chamber of righties (I guess the high-falutin’ term is “epistemic closure”). But I think righties also sense (though don’t acknowledge) that this is their last best chance. Thus the attacks on immigrants, teachers, unions, abortion, Medicare (with the implied promise that SS is next) all at the same time.

    Now I don’t think Trump is actually running. I think he loves being on TV every second of the day. So I love the fact that he’s way up in the R polling. It’s like he’s both Lucy and the football.

    Because of all the overreach, a lot of independents are regretting voting their resentments. And the Tea Partiers (who are nothing more than their resentments) will get jacked around (by Trump, this time) yet again. Hopefully many of them will crawl back under their rocks. So I’m actually pretty hopeful about 2012.

    But of course, we still have to live with this mess for another 18+ months. So I’m not celebrating.

  12. I don’t think Ryan is as dumb as he appears. I think he’s tired of making ends meet on a Congressman’s salary. I’m guessing he’ll make a run for Herb Kohl’s Senate seat in 2012, and all the attention he’s getting will only help him raise funds for that run. If he loses, he’ll get a golden parachute in the form of a high-salary lobbyist job with the Heritage Foundation or AFP, thanks to his efforts to privatize Medicare, whether or not they actually go anywhere.

  13. A question… The House did the democrats a HUGE favor passing the Ryan plan.

    How have the GOP presidential candidates committed?

  14. House Republicans answered Steven Taylor this afternoon by actually passing the Ryan plan. Yes, that’s right, a plan that was formally introduced a week ago, and has been getting widely ridiculed, and got ripped by Obama the other day, was the one they decided they needed to pass today. In fact, the Dems, led by clever Nancy, almost got them to pass an even more radical (hard to imagine) plan! Democratic campaign consultants across the nation must be drinking champagne tonight.

    As for Trump, I’m with Lawrence O’Donnell – he’s doing it all to drive ratings, and it will end when NBC announces Celebrity Apprentice as part of its fall lineup.

    Money allows you to get a lot farther without a lot of brains. Part of the problem with guys like Privatizing Ryan is, well, they just aren’t all that smart, really.

  15. Late Oct.- mid Nov. is a good time for weather in Central Florida; it would also allow enough time for planning, etc. I think Orlando and Las Vegas have the least expensive flights in the country.

  16. If I have a job by then, and can get some time off, and have enough money, count me in!
    I think November would be great. It starts getting dreary then around here after the fall foliage.

  17. Gulag, you get the couch. (really comfy, but you’ll have to cuddle with Butch the attack cat….)

  18. erinyes,
    That’s fine. (There’s a joke about aggresive female body parts that I’ll leave be…).

    As long as your attack cat is up to it!

    Just understand, if I roll the wrong way in my sleep, you might as well skin him and sell him to Trump as a new toupee.

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