Friday, August 06, 2010

Who's The Worst Republican Of All? How About Wisconsin Corporate Shill Paul Ryan?

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Which Republican is the worst of all? Someone said it would be like asking which grain of sand at Jones Beach is the most horrible-- or, more to the point, which poisonous snake in a deep pit you're struggling to keep from being tossed into, is the most dangerous. You may be aware that Blue America is running a contest to pick the worst Republican for Round 2 of our contest. You can watch Round One-- Sarah Palin/ John Boehner/Rand Paul-- above. And, you can vote for our first batch of nominees: television teabagger Michele Bachmann, California real estate swindler Ken Calvert, North Carolina homophobe and sociopath Virginia Foxx, Rove protégé and disgraced ex-U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin, or xenophobic Iowa Bircher Steve King.

But if it were up to me, I'd pick Paul Ryan. He may seem as innocuous as a grain of sand but he really is as dangerous as a deadly viper-- in no small part because the DCCC has acquiesced to Wall Street's request that he be given a free pass and because even Obama has helped propagate the Beltway myth that this clown is somehow a serious intellectual-- even if just an intellectual compared to other vipers Republican congressmen. And it isn't just me. Paul Krugman is as surprised-- and dismayed-- as I am about the success Ryan has had creating an image of himself as brainy, rather than just a Randian monkey. His NY Times column yesterday, The Flamflam Man, makes the point that he's a charlatan-- which has been obvious to me but seems to go right over the heads of most Villagers. "You might have thought," writes Krugman, "given past experience, that D.C. insiders would be on their guard against conservatives with grandiose plans. But no: as long as someone on the right claims to have bold new proposals, he’s hailed as an innovative thinker. And nobody checks his arithmetic."
Ryan has become the Republican Party’s poster child for new ideas thanks to his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a plan for a major overhaul of federal spending and taxes. News media coverage has been overwhelmingly favorable; on Monday, the Washington Post put a glowing profile of Mr. Ryan on its front page, portraying him as the G.O.P.’s fiscal conscience. He’s often described with phrases like “intellectually audacious.”

But it’s the audacity of dopes. Mr. Ryan isn’t offering fresh food for thought; he’s serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce.

Mr. Ryan’s plan calls for steep cuts in both spending and taxes. He’d have you believe that the combined effect would be much lower budget deficits, and, according to that Washington Post report, he speaks about deficits “in apocalyptic terms.” And the Post also tells us that his plan would, indeed, sharply reduce the flow of red ink: “The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan would cut the budget deficit in half by 2020.”

But the budget office has done no such thing. At Mr. Ryan’s request, it produced an estimate of the budget effects of his proposed spending cuts-- period. It didn’t address the revenue losses from his tax cuts.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has, however, stepped into the breach. Its numbers indicate that the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers the Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.

And that’s about the same as the budget office’s estimate of the 2020 deficit under the Obama administration’s plans. That is, Mr. Ryan may speak about the deficit in apocalyptic terms, but even if you believe that his proposed spending cuts are feasible-- which you shouldn’t-- the Roadmap wouldn’t reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich.

And I do mean slash. The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan’s total tax cuts. That’s not a misprint. Even as it slashed taxes at the top, the plan would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population.

Finally, let’s talk about those spending cuts. In its first decade, most of the alleged savings in the Ryan plan come from assuming zero dollar growth in domestic discretionary spending, which includes everything from energy policy to education to the court system. This would amount to a 25 percent cut once you adjust for inflation and population growth. How would such a severe cut be achieved? What specific programs would be slashed? Mr. Ryan doesn’t say.

After 2020, the main alleged saving would come from sharp cuts in Medicare, achieved by dismantling Medicare as we know it, and instead giving seniors vouchers and telling them to buy their own insurance. Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s the same plan Newt Gingrich tried to sell in 1995.

And we already know, from experience with the Medicare Advantage program, that a voucher system would have higher, not lower, costs than our current system. The only way the Ryan plan could save money would be by making those vouchers too small to pay for adequate coverage. Wealthy older Americans would be able to supplement their vouchers, and get the care they need; everyone else would be out in the cold.

In practice, that probably wouldn’t happen: older Americans would be outraged-- and they vote. But this means that the supposed budget savings from the Ryan plan are a sham.

So why have so many in Washington, especially in the news media, been taken in by this flimflam? It’s not just inability to do the math, although that’s part of it. There’s also the unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still people in the G.O.P. making sense. And last but not least, there’s deference to power-- the G.O.P. is a resurgent political force, so one mustn’t point out that its intellectual heroes have no clothes.

But they don’t. The Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.

The DCCC won't lift a finger against it. We, average Americans who want back control of our country from Wall Street, will have to Stop Paul Ryan (something you can contribute to at that link). By the way, one of my favorite aspects of Krugman's column? He was sitting in for... David Brooks.

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4 Comments:

At 10:42 AM, Blogger Bula said...

We have no contenders. If Milwaukee Mayor Barret moved in to WI-01 he would have made a race out of it.

I do not think he has a prayer in his Governors race.

Hard to believe this was Les Aspen's district....

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger WarrenG said...

I sent a link to the Janesville Gazette Xtra last night of Krugman's column the Flim Flam man. I asked, as a retired newspaper man, how a man of questionable integrity as Ryan could be elected to Congress if the local media were doing their job. Haven't gotten a response yet.

 
At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, Krugman was *not* sitting in for David Brooks; they both regularly post on Fridays. Brooks, however, is on vacation, so only Krugman's post ran.

And it should be "The Flimflam Man"; you don't italicize the titles of articles, only books, plays, albums, CDs, magazines, newspapers, and complete, long-form texts.

Otherwise, thank you for this informative post.

 
At 10:22 AM, Blogger John Coby said...

Sorry, but Texas Republican congressmen win hands down for being wacko.

 

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