Appearing on Meet the Press, Representative Paul Ryan continued to shill for his pro-1%, screw-everybody-else budget plan by actually arguing that his budget preempts austerity. By slashing social services, privatizing one of the most successful and efficient government programs out there, and cutting taxes on the wealthy, Ryan says we can avoid having to resort to European style austerity programs, such as slashing social services, privatizing some government programs, and cutting taxes on the wealthy.
I’m not sure what pisses me off more: that the man is sleazy enough to actually argue that quitting while you’re under disciplinary probation is the best approach to avoid getting fired, or that I am almost certainly going to have this utterly asinine argument pitched to me by a family member or friend in the next couple of weeks. It was bad enough having to sit through it once.
Another possibility, of course, is that Paul Ryan actually believes that’s what his budget plan does. Sitting here watching him explain it, with his goofy but sincere expression, it occurs to me that maybe he isn’t lying, just utterly wrong–but I doubt it. Republicans have been trying to kill Social Security and medicare since their inception, so any time a Republican congressman starts talking about “saving” either or both of these programs, read the fine print on whatever they are proposing carefully. Somewhere within it will be the death knell, the details that will render the program insolvent or irreparably damaged; usually this involves some form of privatization. This isn’t because private industry can really do things more efficiently than government, it’s just so a few campaign contributors can get rich running the program into the ground. Having Republicans “fix” a government social program is like getting Paulie to go into the restaurant business with you: no matter how good the idea sounds at first, the end will be a few guys getting rich and then torching the joint.
There are no new ideas in the Ryan budget. Despite the popularity among conservatives, and contrary to the musings of the pundit circuit, the Ryan budget is the same old Republican tripe they’ve been pushing for the past 30 years. The really insulting part is, they’re getting lazy about it; they don’t even bother to change the packaging anymore, they just rename the product and roll it out as a brand new idea. The only part that’s remotely interesting is how it is that everybody keeps treating the same old retreaded ideas like a brand new set of steel belted whitewalls every time they roll them out.
Tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts in social programs, increases in military spending. Try and find a Republican budget in the past 30 years that hasn’t been built around these three principals. The problems change, the solutions are always the same. Budget surplus? Tax cuts for the wealthy, increased military spending, cut welfare. Recession? Tax cuts for the wealthy, increased military spending, privatize Social Security. Need to avoid European style austerity? cut taxes on the wealthy, increase military spending, privatize Medicare. Does the beltway press really not see this, or is pretending that the Ryan budget is somehow revolutionary part of some sort of elaborate kabuki, a giant hoax perpetrated on the American people? How do Republicans get away with offering the same basic policies that got us into the mess we’re in as an honest, good faith effort at finding solutions, time and time again?
One of the worst parts of these plans is the obscene attempt to pretend to hold employment rates hostage, by claiming without any proof that the wealthy are “job creators”, and that raising their taxes will result in higher unemployment. There is no empirical or historical evidence to support this claim, a mountain of historical and empirical evidence to refute it, and somehow people still trot this one out regularly. The wealthy had their chance; in the decade since the Bush tax cuts were enacted, employment fell steadily. If the so called “job creators” wanted to keep them, they should have done a little more job creating. The reason they didn’t is because they couldn’t: The richest 1% aren’t job creators at all. Furthermore, if tax policy drove employment, we’d want to reinstate the 90% upper tax bracket that existed during the boom years of the American economy, in the 1950’s and early 60’s. Face it, “job creators” is just a marketing pitch to try and scare people into voting against their own best interest, and for policies that benefit people who don’t need the extra help.
My fear is that people who don’t follow what’s been going on with the economy closely, here and in Europe, will hear Paul Ryan’s claim that he’s trying to “preempt austerity” and take him at his word, without realizing that his “preemption” plan involves imposing the very austerity measures it ostensibly prevents. That they’ll think it makes sense, and urge their representatives to support the Ryan plan, believing it means avoiding exactly what is actually in the plan. No doubt “preempting austerity” will become the new rallying cry supporting the Ryan budget plan, so expect to hear that one ringing out from the conservative echo chamber in the upcoming weeks.
This is how otherwise good people come to support bad policies against their own interests: by listening to people like Paul Ryan tell them that he’s trying to help them, when his real goal involves no such thing. It’s the same way good people spend thousands of dollars trying to help get deceased dictator’s family get his funds out of the country and into their bank account.
In both examples, the payoff is identical.