Paul Ryan’s Bizarro America

You know the nation has gone off the rails when you want people to listen to the sensible voice of … David Stockman?

The Ryan Plan boils down to a fetish for cutting the top marginal income-tax rate for “job creators” — i.e. the superwealthy — to 25 percent and paying for it with an as-yet-undisclosed plan to broaden the tax base. Of the $1 trillion in so-called tax expenditures that the plan would attack, the vast majority would come from slashing popular tax breaks for employer-provided health insurance, mortgage interest, 401(k) accounts, state and local taxes, charitable giving and the like, not to mention low rates on capital gains and dividends. The crony capitalists of K Street already own more than enough Republican votes to stop that train before it leaves the station.

In short, Mr. Ryan’s plan is devoid of credible math or hard policy choices. And it couldn’t pass even if Republicans were to take the presidency and both houses of Congress. Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have no plan to take on Wall Street, the Fed, the military-industrial complex, social insurance or the nation’s fiscal calamity and no plan to revive capitalist prosperity — just empty sermons.

Of course, the op ed also contains old-school Reaganomic nonsense, like prattling about the “welfare state.” As pm carpenter says,

Stockman is gun-shy, and it’s hard to fault him. He experienced firsthand his party’s embryonic descent into fiscal madness and he emerged from that mortifying encounter incubating irrational fears of all deficits and essentially all modern economic management. He is the ideological equivalent of the old Trotskyites turned communist witch-hunters.

(Note to any wingnuts or baggers, tea or fire, who come by here — carpenter is not calling anyone a communist. It’s an analogy.)

Michael Waldholz writes in Forbes,

Having covered U.S. economic policy as a reporter and editor for over three decades, where I had to rely on facts, documentation and experience based evidence – not wishful thinking — it is clear to me that the Ryan approach is hogwash. Hogwash topped with rhetorical whipped cream, but hogwash just the same. And any prolonged conversation about solving Medicare that includes the Ryan plan is a distraction designed to burnish Romney/Ryan as staunch conservative capitalists. It is not a legitimate way forward.

I don’t agree with all of Waldholz’s ideas expressed in his column, either, but at least he sees that there is no substance to Ryan’s plan. But how do we get across to the people that Ryan is a fraud? And that Ryan’s “plan” is not even a bad idea, but merely a facade of an idea, with no serious thought behind it? Krugman writes,

So, let me clarify what I believe is really going on in the choice of Paul Ryan as VP nominee. It is not about satisfying the conservative base, which was motivated anyway by Obama-hatred; it is not about refocusing on the issues, because R&R are both determined to avoid providing any of the crucial specifics about their plans. It is — as Jonathan Chait also seems to understand — about exploiting the gullibility and vanity of the news media, in much the same way that George W. Bush did in 2000.

Like Bush in 2000, Ryan has a completely undeserved reputation in the media as a bluff, honest guy, in Ryan’s case supplemented by a reputation as a serious policy wonk. None of this has any basis in reality; Ryan’s much-touted plan, far from being a real solution, relies crucially on stuff that is just pulled out of thin air — huge revenue increases from closing unspecified loopholes, huge spending cuts achieved in ways not mentioned. See Matt Miller for more.

So whence comes the Ryan reputation? As I said in my last post, it’s because many commentators want to tell a story about US politics that makes them feel and look good — a story in which both parties are equally at fault in our national stalemate, and in which said commentators stand above the fray. This story requires that there be good, honest, technically savvy conservative politicians, so that you can point to these politicians and say how much you admire them, even if you disagree with some of their ideas; after all, unless you lavish praise on some conservatives, you don’t come across as nobly even-handed.

So mainstream media is, for the most part, describing Ryan as an “intellectual” and a “wonk” who can crunch numbers to within an inch of their life, when in fact his famous budget could have been crafted by Mrs. Holbrook’s sixth grade remedial math class at PS 102. Oh, and the business about Ryan being a regular middle-class guy from a small town in Wisconsin is a crock, too. See Charles Pierce, “The Ryan Family’s History of Fakery” and “The Paul Ryan Origin Story Is a Heaping Pile.”

Let us now go to two opposing views, one from Paul Nocera and the other from Digby. Nocera says that the stark difference between the policy proposals of Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden “creates the potential for the country to have the debate, in a national election, that it needs to have about the size and role of the federal government.” Then he says,

Ryan’s budget plan would reduce the size of government from the current 24 percent of gross domestic product to around 20 percent of G.D.P. The ax would fall most heavily on programs for the poor. As the opinion writer Matt Miller put it recently in The Washington Post, “Over time, Ryan’s ‘vision’ would decimate most federal activities beyond Social Security, Medicare and defense.”

Simply dismissing these ideas as crazy is a mistake. There are many people in the country who agree with Ryan — as they showed two years ago, when they elected 87 Republican freshmen, many of them Tea Party-backed political novices, to the House of Representatives, who went to Washington vowing to shrink the federal government.

Digby disagrees, saying,

This is cowardly writing, and Nocera knows it. What he actualy seems to be saying is, “Ryan’s ideas are screaming yellow bonkers, but a lot of people voted for them.” In other words, Nocera’s saying that it’s not crazy to dismiss these crazy ideas – they are, after all, you know, nuts, as David Stockman trenchantly describes on the same page – but we should be aware that lots of people have voted for them and therefore we should pay attention to the ideas and discuss them.

I’m firmly in between these positions. I agree with Digby it’s a huge mistake to discuss Paul Ryan’s budget as if it were a serious policy proposal, because it isn’t. But if you read Nocera’s entire column, and put the quote above in context, I don’t think that is what he is proposing.

How I read it is that for year after year movement conservatives have won elections by running against the allegedly wasteful and bloated and too big federal government, and the too many pigs allegedly feeding at the entitlement trough. Then they get elected to Congress, where they spend like drunken sailors in ways that benefit their corporate sponsors.

But Ryan, he says, is a true believer who really would shrink government and drown it in the bathtub. And the debate we need to have with the American people is, Is this really want you want? Do you really want to live with the result, if this were actually done? Have it out, once and for all. People, do you really want to break up the Medicare and Social Security programs, take food out of the mouths of poor babies, let our infrastructure rot and forest fires rage and meat go uninspected so that billionaires can get a bigger tax cut? Is that really want you want? Because, whether you realize it or not, that’s what you keep voting for. And then you wonder why government is so bleeped up.

So, I don’t think we should merely dismiss Ryan’s plan as crazy. We need to clearly explain why it is crazy.

16 thoughts on “Paul Ryan’s Bizarro America

  1. Since we’re supposed to think about the government’s budget in the same way that we think about our household budgets, you could ask people to consider what would happen if their household budgets were suddenly cut by 20%. Which is not at all an unrealistic scenario, at any rate, given that everyone who isn’t rich will be paying more taxes under Romney/Ryan.

    It’s also useful that in the meanwhile, the House Republicans have until the end of the year to decide whether they want to raise everyone’s taxes, or just taxes on income over $250,000.

  2. Mrs. Holbrook’s sixth grade remedial math class at PS 102 OBJECTS, your Honor!

    Just because they’re in remedial math class doesn’t mean they’re stupid, like Congressman Ryan.
    You can fix a kid needing help with math.
    But you can’t fix stupid. Or, lying for that matter, either.

    What I’m hoping for, is that Obama and the Democrats see this, once and for all, as THE ground upon which to have the economic battle, instead of creeping ever further into enemy territory, and talking about “Grand Bargains.”

    The only “Grand Bargain” the Conservatives want, is one in which only one side can haggle – the one with the money.

    Democrats selling-out Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid in any way, won’t be looked upon as some “Only Nixon could go to China” moment. It will be looked upon as ‘Only feckless, reckless, and worthless assholes could do something stupid like that.’

    That, and why bother having Democrats at all if you’re not willing to stand-up for the very programs that your party created, and the other party has wanted to destroy before the ink was even dry after the signing?

    You don’t see too many Conservatives wanting to sell-out tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, do you?
    Think there might be a reason for that?

    Why would you even think of selling-out the 99% to the top 1%, Democrats?
    Especially the bottom half of that 99%?

    I hope that the next 2+ months wipes away any thoughts of making some “Grand Bargain.”
    Otherwise, why bother even having this election?
    Either way, the top 1% will win.

    And maybe that’s where all of this was headed, one way or the other, ever since the middle class got too comfortable, and too powerful, after WWII, and the Conservative backlash began in the late 60’s.
    Sure seems that way sometimes…

  3. I almost never agree with– OK, I almost never read— Politico, but this quote from today is interesting to me:

    Away from the cameras, and with all the usual assurances that people aren’t being quoted by name, there is an unmistakable consensus among Republican operatives in Washington: Romney has taken a risk with Ryan that has only a modest chance of going right — and a huge chance of going horribly wrong.

    In more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and campaign operatives — old hands and rising next-generation conservatives alike — the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.

    Maybe I’m being irrationally optimistic as always, but the above perspective is interesting to me because my first reaction, on hearing the news of Romney’s choice Saturday morning, was to howl with laughter. The only way Romney’d be more likely to lose in November, I theorized, was if Sarah Palin had actually returned his calls and agreed to Round Two.

    Of course, it all depends on whether the MSM can remove its collective head from its collective posterior region, and report truthfully on what a foul little creep Eddie Munster is… and how batsh*t unfair and dishonest his budgetary philosophy is.

    And there’s my irrational optimism again!

    Looking forward to the Veep Debate, though. Hell yes.

  4. “whether the MSM can remove its collective head from its collective posterior region, and report truthfully on what a foul little creep Eddie Munster is” Almost as good as “Zombie-eyed granny starver”

    It depends on GOTV. Period. The GOP is teeming with frothy-mouthed Obama haters; the left is sprinkled with “I didn’t get enough ponies” liberals. Pulling the lever/punching the card is what COUNTS.

  5. Pulling the lever/punching the card is what COUNTS.

    My poor lovely idealistic niece doesn’t turn 18 until next February, and she is so very pissed that she can’t vote for Obama. She can volunteer, though. I encourage it!

  6. Mr. Gulag, I disagree about Ryan being stupid. I don’t think he is. He merely cannot relate to other human beings, more or less like Romney. There is no human connection there; it’s all about proving his personal theory of politics and the economy, a la Ayn Rand. I have to add that I have run into men like this more often than I like to say – all hung up about proving their particular obsessions, even when they don’t make sense.

  7. Lynne,
    Point taken.
    You are right.
    HE’S not stupid – his ideas are.
    And THAt makes him doubly as dangerous!

  8. All you have to do is read R-money’s diary posts on DKos to realize that he and Ryan are cut from the same cloth.

    “Authoritarian followers” is also quite descriptive of them, but I wonder whether they know they’re following, or who?

  9. Not “stupid”, but it’s hard to believe he has a BA in economics. He must have dozed off and drooled on his copy of The Fountainhead” during class. He’s certainly heartless.

  10. The right wingers have to make a choice; do they let their hatred of Obama win out or will it be their fear that the RR train will take away their medicare and social security. The ‘Ryan Plan’ doesn’t touch any seniors now, only those of us under 55. Nice bit ‘o politics there. And besides, the RWers don’t think they’ll really do it (focus grouped by Obama). Case in pt. My mother-in-law, staunch republican. When my wife recently explained to her that they were planning on changing medicare and SS said, “Oh, they won’t do that”. YES THEY WILL.

  11. Interestingly, the R’s are acting as though the rug is being pulled out from under the next generation by the Democrats! It is obvious to any of us here that it is simple propaganda 101: accuse the opposition of whatever you’re doing! The fact that the so-called news outlets of this country let it happen is sad old news.

    If the Democratic campaign keeps hitting hard and showing up Romney for the liar he is via video clips and facts from his previous speeches and gubernatorial record, he can be stopped. And Ryan? The best medicine there is laughter, so that no one will take him seriously. Obama’s “trickle-down fairy dust” line is worth using repeatedly.

    I’m feeling better!

  12. I have a hard time believing he went to Miami of OH for a special Poli Sci (let alone Economics) education as those majors are not Miami’s strength (or reason for its academic reputation). And, of course, Madison at WI possesses those strengths in spades.

    He’s a Rethug Poli Sci grad who undoubtedly spent way more time at the frat house carousing than studying, and probably had only a couple of Econ courses at the most (if that – check his knowledge of budget math).

    The back story is that someone in WI wanted him to go to college out of state so that his academic performance couldn’t be easily checked, and he was then eased into a WI congressional phone-answering job for the rightest-wingnut there (which fits his wealthy anti-union background perfectly).

    This will all come out. Bet on it.

  13. Here’s the deal with Ayn Ryan. This guy is supposed to be “intellectual” he retains an arrested adolescent view of Atlas Shrugged as a coherent philosophy and John Galt as a literary hero. This is patent anti-intellectualism and a pretty good sign of never having grown up intellectually.

  14. RMoney can whine until he’s blue in the face, but he has made Bain Capital his sole vettable history in running for President. He refuses to own his record as Goober-not of MA, so what else can he be judged by.

    Soon enough it will become obvious that Bain started as a money laundry for Central American death squads run by D’Aubisson, and was most likely in league with the treasonous criminal Ollie North. Talk about a war on geligion Willard. Shooting an Archbishop dead while he was saying Mass? Raping and slaughtering nuns? That’s a war on religion, not some phony recriminations about contraception.

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