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.