Paul Ryan, Gary Delong, And The Great Republican Con Game Of 2012

As a liberal I am both overjoyed at the fact that someone as demonstrably ridiculous as Paul Ryan has ascended from the back bench of the Republican party to its candidate for Vice President, and scared to death that he might actually have some real political influence. The hesitancy that progressives feel in celebrating the GOP’s continued instance on appealing only to its most ideologically pure base voters comes out of the elections of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The elections of those individuals whose idiocy, despite being well-documented and accepted as the truth, failed to prevent their ascension into power, where they each turned the concept of “good government” into the sad oxymoron that it is today. Elections have consequences, and those of us who do not happen to live in the desired upper 1% income bracket are all too aware of the effect that the government can have on how we live our daily lives. Today’s Republican Candidates for political office might claim to abhor the power of the government, but in reality they are eager to take ahold of the institution and use it to enrich the “job creator” class that conservatives celebrate so enthusiastically.

The Ryan budget has been deservingly receiving a ton of attention in policy circles and the political press since Ryan’s introduction onto the GOP ticket. If the proposal were to ever become law, it would accomplish nothing other than dramatically reducing the quality of life for most Americans while enabling the greatest theft of wealth from the middle and working classes directly into the pockets of those who already have the means to support themselves (and build full-sized western themed play towns in Colorado for their personal use). This budget is nothing more than a confidence game designed by the Republican party to trick uniformed voters into giving away their livelihoods to those whose excesses have already done irreparable harm to the economy and the national interest.

The method to their madness is actually quite linear.

Step one involves overly-focusing on the “deficit” by constantly using the inaccurate metaphor of household spending to government spending. This also requires a sycophantic media apparatus, whose concerns with the deficit are rooted in the fear that their own considerable wealth could become less valuable if inflation were to ever become a problem (in reality we are facing the opposite problem). Seeing that most people can comprehend the flawed metaphor, rather than the complexities inherent in the world’s largest economy, the idea of “shared sacrifice” takes root within the voting public.

Step two involves Ryan, or other Republicans, proposing just massive cuts to social welfare programs. The cuts are both savage and politically motivated. Programs that help the poor such as food stamps, WIC vouchers, and Pell Grants for students become easy targets for these cuts, as these groups are less cohesive voting blocks and can be portrayed in right wing media outlets as “undeserving parasites”. The elimination of the popular medicare program is even forestalled in a way to only screw over future old people, instead of the electorally necessary 65+ voting block which is wary of any changes that could affect their current benefit package.

Step three has Ryan assuring those supportive figures in the media that his cuts will be offset by “broadening the base” of government revenues through closing loopholes and eliminating unnecessary tax breaks. This action, according to the followers of the Ryan plan, will reduce the deficit and balance the budget while putting more money into the hands of ordinary Americans. In truth however, absolutely none of this is actually true, neither in terms of its final product nor in its original intent.

In reality the “broadening” will never actually happen. Government revenues will remain exceedingly low on purpose. The government’s tax and spend powers are a wealth redistribution mechanism, and the rich who support candidates like Ryan have no desire to have their wealth given to undeserving poors under any circumstances. Meanwhile the ambiguity regarding which loopholes will be closed is also a purposeful political trick employed by believers in supply-side economics like Paul Ryan. As Paul Krugman details in his essential piece on the subject, the deficit actually grows precipitously under this proposal, the ability of the government to invest is crippled, and the average consumer is rendered even poorer.

If this economic plan sounds familiar to you, it is because it is the same horrible miasma of double speak and bad policy that many Republican candidates are trotting out for unsuspecting voters across the country. In Long Beach for example, the local 47th Congressional race features Republican (and friend of the blog) Gary Delong, whose well-documented lack of of specific policy proposals is coupled with a concern for the deficit and government spending is virtually identical to that of Paul Ryan. Given this similarity, it is not surprising that Delong has also adopted the same solution to this “problem” as Paul Ryan.

From Delong’s “priorities” page we can see the candidate embracing the language and strategy of the Ryan budget without necessarily endorsing the potentially toxic proposal itself:

Millions of American families keep a balanced budget every year.  Washington hasn’t balanced a budget in years.

There is your “Step One” metaphor.

It’s no secret that entitlements are where the majority of spending occurs. I believe in Social Security and Medicare, but the undeniable truth is these programs are going broke. We must keep our promise to current retirees, but for younger Americans, these programs will need to be reformed in order to be sustainable over the long term.

This represents “Step Two”. Here Delong is pandering to older voters while simultaneously lying about the sustainability of the programs and delegitimizing the benefits by using the “entitlements” buzzword favored by conservatives pollsters. He is also lying about the sources of the deficit as you can see in this chart:

Delong’s mendacity is not limited just to his beliefs concerning reoccurring sources of spending however:

The failed stimulus bill did not solve rising unemployment, but it did raise the debt by a trillion dollars with little to show for it. You can not spend your way to prosperity.

Instead of government interfering in the free market by picking winners and losers, Congress needs to eliminate burdensome regulations and reduce taxes for America’s job creators. Supporting the more than 15 million small businesses that have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years should be our priority.

Here Delong employs not just some blatant lies concerning the economic impact of the stimulus, but he also uses the Ayn Rand-esque terminology concerning the superiority of the “job creator class”. This shows that the candidate not only agrees with the theory of supply-side economics, but that he also sees the success of the 1% (rather than say alleviating poverty) as the as the end goal of legislation enacted by the government.

Delong then completes this process of conning voters with his horrible economic plan by embracing the purposeful ambiguity regarding where he would actual raise government revenues.

“We should not generate debt to pass onto the next generation, and that is what is happening today,” he said, noting there were multiple ways to help reduce the deficit. “You cannot cut your entire way there; we also need to grow revenues.”

He said he would not approve of new taxes and that he would not want to put any more regulations on the private sector.

The cynicism required to pursue the final part strategy cannot be stressed enough. Delong, by proposing a platform like the one he is running on is functioning as little more than a “middleman” between the tax payers and the wealthy business interests who would like to receive more money at a time when consumers are hesitant to spend in the private market place due to low wages and employment instability amongst the middle and working class. By cutting essential programs and privatizing them while simultaneously refusing to raise progressive taxes (meaning taxes that affect the rich more than the poor), Delong is essentially doing nothing more than using the power of the government to move money from those who can afford to spend the least to those who he believes “deserve” it more.

Politicians like Paul Ryan might be slightly more transparent in pursuing this “reverse Robin Hood” strategy, but candidates like Delong are in effect doing the exact same thing. Perhaps it is time that we call them out for proposing such foolishness.

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About stefanbc

I am a graduate of Brandeis University with a double major in History and African/African American Studies, and of Whittier Law School where I specialized in Children's Rights and issues relating to Poverty Law. I live in Long Beach California with my wife and four pets. View all posts by stefanbc

4 responses to “Paul Ryan, Gary Delong, And The Great Republican Con Game Of 2012

  • Tyler

    Stefanbc,

    I’m a new resident the CA-47 area and just came across your blog.
    You mentioned a few things that I found inaccurate or misleading that I would like to comment on. Let me preface this though by saying I believe in capitalism – the means of production and the creation of goods and services are owned privately and done for-profit. Wealth creation is something we strive for and is a good thing! Ideas like a 70% income tax and our current 39% corporate tax are destructive and are simply government mechanisms to redistribute wealth to whatever special interest has influence.

    Although I’m not a business owner nor a member of the “job creator class”, I fully believe that this system when implemented correctly provides for the highest equality of opportunity. As Milton Friedman always said (paraphrasing): efforts to equalize outcomes result in government coercion and leave most people without equality and without opportunity.

    Step One:

    While I think Krugman’s analysis has some flaws, it isn’t the issue here. The metaphor is used to illustrate the fiscal responsibility of our leaders in a quick, simplistic manner – not the intricacies of an economy or the government-market relationship. Most people don’t understand how the economy works, but they do understand the nature of debt and how it can cripple a government just as it can a family.

    My seconds issue, and perhaps the most important in your article, is your flawed understanding of inflation. Inflation is a big contributor to the demise of the middle class and is something that gives unfair profits to special interests at the expense of the lower and middle classes. Judging by your posts I would assume this is something you would be preaching against.

    For a good, simple read on the mechanics of inflation I would suggest Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson.” This excerpt from Rothbar will also suffice: http://mises.org/money/3s2.asp

    My quick explanation of how inflation works:

    The government (federal reserve) prints money and deals it out to banks/corporations in need on loan (usually interest free and often never repaid). The targeted group has an injection of money and increased purchasing power to buy goods/services at prices that are cheaper than what they will be after the market adjusts to the dollar’s changed value. As you know, when there are more of something the value of an individual piece decreases.

    As the injected money trickles down through the economy the market naturally and gradually raises prices to match that of the dollar’s new value. The reason this hurts the lower/middle classes is that those salaries are always the last to receive this bump. So for a time the lower/middle classes purchases goods at new inflation-adjusted prices before they get inflation-adjusted salary increases. The special interests that received the money first got to purchase goods at pre-adjustment prices with post-adjustment dollar-value.

    Step two:

    A majority of cuts are to low-income/entitlements because they make up a majority of the budget and are the programs in most need of reform.

    http://www.factcheck.org/2011/07/fiscal-factcheck/

    Step Three:

    You are right that the Ryan plan doesn’t specifically mention any loopholes and breaks. The NY Times has interesting article about the amount of revenue that could be created by closing loopholes and breaks though – up to 1.2 trillion!
    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/22/tax-breaks-a-primer/

    DeLong paragraphs:

    You are wrong about the sustainability of our entitlement programs and the source of the deficit.

    Timothy Gheitner on Obama budget proposal: “Even if Congress were to enact this budget, we would still be left with—in the outer decades as millions of Americans retire—what are still unsustainable commitments in Medicare and Medicaid”
    http://reason.com/blog/2012/02/16/geithner-admits-obama-budget-leaves-amer

    Even Krugman admits the crisis was the primary cause of the deficit: “Most of the deficit rise was due to revenues falling below expectations — mainly because of the slump… Spending was higher than projected, too… The point is that more than 90 percent of the rise in the deficit relative to pre-crisis projections is related directly to the crisis.”

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/27/sources-of-the-budget-deficit/

    You give DeLong a lot of heat, but I think it’s unwarranted. DeLong is right that using the government to pick winners/losers is bad. That kind of interference can easily lead to some quasi form of corporatism or fascism.

    Much of DeLong’s focus has been on small-business, too. I would hardly call small business owners the 1%. I also don’t see it as his “end goal” nor is it contradictory to things such as alleviating poverty.

    “Delong is essentially doing nothing more than using the power of the government to move money from those who can afford to spend the least to those who he believes deserve it more.”

    Not really. He is advocating the government get out of the way and to let the market work as it should without the government’s hand guiding it. It’s ironic that you say though, because every alternative you have suggested is using the government to transfer wealth from those who you don’t like to those who you think deserve it more.

    • stefanbc

      Take some time and talk to the small business owners around Belmont (where Delong serves as a city councilmen) and you will hear the same story of an absentee member of the community who frankly either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about their actual interests or concerns. His main focus has been on large scale redevelopment efforts which inherently involve the government “picking winners and losers” via large tax-payer subsidies to large corporations (who could care less about the residents of Long Beach). Nothing in Delong’s platform indicates any real benefit for small businesses.

      Also, when is this horrible period of unsustainable inflation supposed to occur? Right wing economists have been predicting it for years, and it has yet to materialize. Your dishonest grouping of “entitlements” and low-income social safety net spending into one segment of the economy shows that you are playing fast and loose with data, but scaremongering about inflation when we face the exact opposite problem is pretty massive oversight on your part.

      And hell yes I am advocating for a wealth transfer facilitated by the government, that is the point of tax policy. Laissez Faire economics and neo-liberalism both only serve to benefit those who already have massive amounts of wealth and seek to maintain that status indefinitely. I believe in re-establishing a system of actual opportunity instead of preserving the American aristocracy.

  • Tyler

    DeLong’s city council position is technically part-time. As far as I know he has office hours there all day on Monday and Tuesday. You should visit one day though if you’re interested in absenteeism. Very few of the actual full-timers hold regular office hours.

    I don’t know if I would call it unsustainable inflation. I’m certainly not worried (right now) about us spiraling into hyperinflation similar to Zimbabwe a few years ago or the Continental during the Revolutionary War.

    That all being said, inflation is still dangerous and even “sustainable” rates disproportionately affect lower/middle classes. As such, I’m always confused when liberals vote against auditing the federal reserve or for massive amount of deficit spending/stimuli. We’ve been seeing inflation at 2-10% yearly (depending on which measurement you use). This is high enough to put money in the pockets of the special interests but low enough to not alarm the public.

    • stefanbc

      We’re pissed at the fed, but mainly because Bernake is way too worried about inflation when he should be focusing on the other aspect of the Fed’s mandate (employment cough cough). As for the inflationista and deficit Cassandra’s, the evidence offers a pretty stark rebuke of their concerns (http://www.businessinsider.com/the-world-is-experiencing-the-opposite-of-a-sovereign-debt-crisis-2012-7)

      My issue with Delong’s absenteeism is not his availability to the public, it is his insistence on campaigning on his “experience” and “accomplishments” when he has none. Showing up to vote for the bills that you sponsor would be a first step toward showing that he cares about being a public servant.

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