Monday, April 30, 2012

Jonathans Chait And Weisman Dissect The Legendary Paul Ryan... In Great Detail


The new issue of New York features a "photo-illustration" of Wall Street's and the One Percent's favorite up-and-coming politician of Reaction, Paul Ryan, by Jesse Lenz... and it gets very close in style to Pierre et Gilles. I think Jesse knew exactly what he was doing. Parisians Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard produce highly stylized art pieces that have become part of popular culture. At Warners we used them to do album covers for Marc Almond, Erasure and, eventually, Madonna. Jesse may have actually been given Chait's manuscript for inspiration. What artistic heights could an opening like this inspire you to?
The implosion of the Newt Gingrich presidential campaign-- the first implosion, before the weird resurrection and inevitable second implosion-- came because he used four words: right-wing social engineering. He used the phrase, last May, to describe the Republican budget designed by GOP icon Paul Ryan. It was as if he had urinated on Ronald Reagan’s grave. Party leaders rounded on him. In Iowa, an angry voter cornered him and fumed, in a video captured by Fox News that quickly went viral, “What you did to Paul Ryan was unforgivable … You’re an embarrassment.” Gingrich quickly apologized to Ryan, pledged his fealty to the document, and then, lending his confession an extracted-at-NKVD-gunpoint flavor, announced, “Any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood.” It was no use: Despite years of diligent service, his support among Republicans collapsed, his fellow partisans holding him in the low regard ordinarily reserved for liberals.

Ryan’s rise occurred so rapidly that an old hand like Gingrich hadn’t yet fully grasped the fact that he had become unassailable, though most (and, by now, virtually all) of his fellow Republicans had. Ryan’s prestige explains, among other things, the equanimity with which movement conservatives have reluctantly accepted the heresies of Mitt Romney. They may not have an ideal candidate, but they believe Romney could not challenge Ryan even if he so desired.

“Now, we are truly at an inflection point, between the Barack Obama and Paul Ryan approaches to government,” National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote recently, treating the elevation of the chairman of the House Budget Committee over the presidential nominee as his party’s standard-bearer as so obvious it requires no explanation. “We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget,” says anti-tax enforcer Grover Norquist. “Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States.” In any case, Romney has shown no inclination to challenge Ryan, praising him fulsomely and even promising him, according to the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes, he’d enact Ryan’s plan in the first 100 days. Republicans envision an administration in which Romney has relegated himself to a kind of head-of-state role, at least domestically, with Ryan as the actual head of government.

Chait then veers off into an analysis about why the Village loves Ryan in a way it never embraced Newt or even Reagan in their heydays. And at the same time Chait had the Ryan phenomenon under his microscope, Jonathan Weisman was engaged in the same task over at the NY Times. Ryan listens to Rage Against the Machine on his iPod. But Ryan is the voice of the Machine... always has been, although it's only recently most people are listening. And Weisman reminds us "That is not bad for a man who was once just another minion on Capitol Hill, working for a research group, then for a member of Congress, and moonlighting as a waiter at the Hill hangout Tortilla Coast and as a personal trainer at a gym. Co-workers at the conservative policy group Empower America admonished him for hanging his workout clothes out to dry at work rather than laundering them." From that to undoing the New Deal.

Weisman is probably unaware that Dave Obey, Wisconsin's top-dog Democrat protected and even nurtured Ryan's political career and made sure he would never be seriously challenged for reelection even though he represents a swing district filled with Democrats, a district Obama won in 2008. Obey, who was forced into retirement from Congress after voting for the Stupak Amendment, has an obvious man crush on the much younger Ryan. Weisman uses Obey as an example of how "those who know him cannot seem to dislike him."
“I’m stunned by how oblivious he is to the pain his policies would cause people,” said David R. Obey, a Democrat from Wisconsin who jousted often with his downstate colleague before retiring from the House at the end of 2010. “What amazes me is that someone that nice personally has such a cold, almost academic view of what the impact of his policies would be on people.”

No one ever asks Obey about the notorious Obey Pact that protected all Wisconsin incumbents; convenient. Of course Obey isn't the only member of Washington's Conservative Consensus with a man crush on Paul Ryan's. Notorious GOP closet case, Aaron Schock from Peoria is completely smitten who gushes his homoerotic admiration for the older Ryan. Schock, who's ditched his pink belt and lavender shirts to blend in better with the straights, tells Weisman that Ryan is “in kick-butt shape."

Paul Krugman has long decried Ryan as a fraud and a flimflam man and it's driven him to distraction that an even less serious Beltway media has conferred upon Ryan some kind of mantle of seriousness and wonkishness... and, worse yet, wisdom. Ryan's a Wall Street special interest hack, bought and paid for in the hopes of installing him one day in the White House, the way MCA and organized crime did with Reagan. Ryan's fame-- at least outside the Beltway-- rests in his plan, a redistribution of wealth plan (from bottom to top) masquerading as a deficit reduction plan. Chait puts it at the center of the Ryan legend:
The centrist political Establishment, heavily represented among business leaders and the political media, considers it almost self-evident that the budget deficit (and not, say, mass unemployment or climate change) represents the singular policy threat of our time, and that bipartisan cooperation offers the sole avenue to address it. By casting his program as a solution to the debt crisis, by frequently conceding that Republicans as well as Democrats had failed in the past, and by inveighing against “demagoguery,” Ryan has presented himself as the acceptable Republican suitor the moderates had been longing for.

Whether Ryan’s plan even is a “deficit-reduction plan” is highly debatable. Ryan promises to eliminate trillions of dollars’ worth of tax deductions, but won’t identify which ones. He proposes to sharply reduce government spending that isn’t defense, Medicare (for the next decade, anyway), or Social Security, but much of that reduction is unspecified, and when Obama named some possible casualties, Ryan complained that those hypotheticals weren’t necessarily in his plan. Ryan is specific about two policies: massive cuts to income-tax rates, and very large cuts to government programs that aid the poor and medically vulnerable. You could call all this a “deficit-reduction plan,” but it would be more accurate to call it “a plan to cut tax rates and spending on the poor and sick.” Aside from a handful of exasperated commentators, like Paul Krugman, nobody does.

The persistent belief in the existence of an authentic, deficit hawk Ryan not only sweeps aside the ugly particulars of his agenda, it also ignores, well, pretty much everything he has done in his entire career, and pretty much everything he has said until about two years ago.

In 2005, Ryan spoke at a gathering of Ayn Rand enthusiasts, where he declared, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” Ryan has listed Rand’s manifesto, Atlas Shrugged, as one of his three most often reread books, and in 2003, he told the Weekly Standard he tries to make his interns read it. Rand is a useful touchstone to understand Ryan’s public philosophy. She centered libertarian philosophy around a defense of capitalism in general and, in particular, a conception of politics as a class war pitting virtuous producers against parasites who illegitimately use the power of the state to seize their wealth. Ludwig von Mises, whom Ryan has also cited as an influence, once summed up Rand’s philosophy in a letter to her: “You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: You are inferior and all the improvements in your condition which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you.”

Ryan now frequently casts his opposition to Obama in technocratic terms, but he hasn’t always done so. “It is not enough to say that President Obama’s taxes are too big or the health-care plan doesn’t work for this or that policy reason,” Ryan said in 2009. “It is the morality of what is occurring right now, and how it offends the morality of individuals working toward their own free will to produce, to achieve, to succeed, that is under attack, and it is that what I think Ayn Rand would be commenting on.” Ryan’s philosophical opposition to a government that forces the “makers” to subsidize the “takers”-- terms he still employs-- is foundational; the policy details are secondary.

...In 2001, Ryan led a coterie of conservatives who complained that George W. Bush’s $1.2 trillion tax cut was too small, and too focused on the middle class. In 2003, he lobbied Republicans to pass Bush’s deficit-financed prescription-drug benefit, which bestowed huge profits on the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. In 2005, when Bush campaigned to introduce private accounts into Social Security, Ryan fervently crusaded for the concept. He was the sponsor in the House of a bill to create new private accounts funded entirely by borrowing, with no benefit cuts. Ryan’s plan was so staggeringly profligate, entailing more than $2 trillion in new debt over the first decade alone, that even the Bush administration opposed it as “irresponsible.”

Goal Thermometer When Democrats took control of Congress in the 2006 elections, they reimposed a budget rule requiring that any new spending or tax cuts be offset by new revenue or spending cuts. Ryan opposed it, preferring to let new spending or tax cuts go on the national credit card. Instead, he continued to endorse Bush’s line that tax cuts were leading us to a glorious new era of prosperity and budget balance. “Higher revenues flowing into the Treasury, as a result of economic and job growth, have given us a real chance to balance the budget,” Ryan announced in 2007. “The president’s budget achieves the important goal of balancing the budget in the near term-- without raising taxes,” he wrote in August 2008.

So Ryan's a fraud? Isn't that what we've been telling you for 6 years? Yes, he's a fraud. And in his own district that fraudulence has never been examined by voters. Is Rob Zerban up to the task? We think so. Blue America has endorsed him. We're raising money for him on a Stop Paul Ryan page which is what that thermometer leads to. And, we have an Independent Expenditure Committee we can use to really go after Ryan ourselves... if we can raise enough money. Right now we have a billboard up on the I-94 at the Ryan Road exit just south of the Milwaukee Airport. If you want to help, perhaps we can do a lot more than that between now and November.

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At 5:34 AM, Blogger Jay Schiavone said...

Ryan's a fraud? Bull! Jonathan Weisman tells me Ryan listens to Rage Against The Machine while leading some kind of fitness group near the Capital. Weisman also sycophantically reiterates all the hackneyed DC conventional wisdom surrounding Ryan. Oddly, one would never know from reading Weisman's fluff job that he and Paul Krugman both work at the same paper. Or that Krugman even exists. But hey, Weisman needs to get all the right people to return his calls, so you can't ruffle any feathers.


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