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 â€œjob creatorsâ€ â€” i.e. the superwealthy â€” 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. Ryanâ€™s plan is devoid of credible math or hard policy choices. And it couldnâ€™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 nationâ€™s fiscal calamity and no plan to revive capitalist prosperity â€” 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.)
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 â€“ not wishful thinking â€” 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 â€” as Jonathan Chait also seems to understand â€” 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 Ryanâ€™s case supplemented by a reputation as a serious policy wonk. None of this has any basis in reality; Ryanâ€™s much-touted plan, far from being a real solution, relies crucially on stuff that is just pulled out of thin air â€” 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, itâ€™s because many commentators want to tell a story about US politics that makes them feel and look good â€” 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 donâ€™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,
Ryanâ€™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, â€œOver time, Ryanâ€™s â€˜visionâ€™ would decimate most federal activities beyond Social Security, Medicare and defense.â€
Simply dismissing these ideas as crazy is a mistake. There are many people in the country who agree with Ryan â€” 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.