Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 1, 2009

A BUDGET PERFECT FOR APRIL FOOLS' DAY.... Rumor has it that Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, is one of the House GOP Caucus' sharper members. He has a reputation for knowing what he's talking about, and doing his homework. So, when I saw that he'd written an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal about the GOP's budget alternative, I was anxious to see what he'd come up with.

To be sure, the roll-out for the alternative budget has been a rather humiliating fiasco, as evidenced by the Republican decision to unveil a budget with no numbers in it. And we won't really be able to scrutinize the proposal until the caucus decides to release some, you know, data.

Today, however, Ryan sketches out at least some additional thoughts about the GOP vision.

Our plan halts the borrow-and-spend philosophy that brought about today's economic problems, and puts a stop to heaping ever-growing debt on future generations -- and it does so by controlling spending, not by raising taxes.

In reality, the "borrow-and-spend philosophy" did not create the crisis, so Ryan's prescription is automatically based on a misdiagnosis. But even if we put that aside, the alternative budget reflects a political party that embraced a breathtakingly radical worldview.

In a nutshell, Ryan proposes a massive tax cut, totaling, by some estimates, around $4 trillion -- on top of the Bush/Cheney cuts, which would remain place. The Republicans plan would voucherize Medicare, and, best of all, impose a five-year spending freeze on non-defense discretionary spending (which is, of course, completely insane).

Kenneth Baer, the OMB communications director, said this morning, "If you expected a GOP alternative to the failed policies of the past that got our country into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, then I have two words for you: April Fool's."

Based on Ryan's vision, the stimulus package would be gone. Funding for education, healthcare, the environment, infrastructure, law enforcement, and medical research would all be slashed, while the wealthiest Americans are rewarded with massive new tax cuts.

It's almost as if Ryan and his Republican colleagues are trying to destroy the economy. As Pat Garofalo recently explained, "The economic stimulus package's main purpose is to close the GDP gap and jumpstart the economy by spurring spending by households, government and the private sector. A spending freeze would act as an 'anti-stimulus,' cutting spending precisely when it's too low and the economy is moving too slowly."

Paul Krugman added, "I'm shocked by the total intellectual collapse of the Republican Party in the face of this economic crisis.... I'd really like to see some genuine bipartisanship in America. But that can't happen until we start having at least somewhat sane partisans."

And if Paul Ryan is what passes today as a sane partisan, the Republican Party has a long way to go before it can sit at the big kids' table.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

Tax cuts are the very definition of borrow and spend if they are not off-set by meaningful budget off-sets. And they haven't been. The war needed to be funded. Homeland security needed to be funded. Defense appropriations needed to be funded. And on and on. It is a question of priorities, not a question of borrow and spend. We borrowed more and spent more during the last 8 years than in any other time. The lack of a realistic leadership vision by the GOP brought on all the crises. And these crises had nothing to do with fiscal restraint!

Posted by: Sparko on April 1, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Are we getting numbers today, or will this be more drama-queen misrepresentations and generalities minus any hard data?

Posted by: shortstop on April 1, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry to quibble, but there's a contradiction in your post.

First, you say, "In reality, the "borrow-and-spend philosophy" did not create the [current economic] crisis"

Then you quote Ken Baer, who says, "If you expected a GOP alternative to the failed policies of the past that got our country into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, then I have two words for you: April Fool's."

Well, which is it? Did Republicun economic policies create the recession, or did they merely contribute to it? Or, are the Republicuns simply fellow travelers with the parasitic weasels of Wall Street who REALLY contributed to the economic downturn?

Or were Republican economic policies simply bad policy for reasons not having to do directly with the current economy?

Posted by: CT on April 1, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Welcome to the club. I have never understood Ryan's appeal other than relative youth and good looks. He is from what used to be a swing district and given current economic conditions should trend Democratic. Certainly his constituents have not prospered while he has been in Congress. nevertheless he gets trotted out with regularity as some sort of intellectual giant of the GOP. As best I can tell he has been a one trick pony by complaining about deficits. Prior to today his solution has always been to gut social security and medicare. With the exception of Feingold, Wisconsin politics is in a very bad state.

Posted by: terry on April 1, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

It will be wonderful to get the "numbers" today - does anyone know when they intend to parade it out?
If Paul Ryan is the sanest of the Repubs and your information about the plan is correct, this might be my best April Fool's joke of the day.

Posted by: whichwitch on April 1, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

The premise behind this budget proposal seems to be roughly 'When there's a flood, the tall guys still drown, but they drown last, and with the contents of all the short guys' pockets.'

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on April 1, 2009 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

If they didn't have the smarts to look at a calendar and think Hmmmm April Fool's day ...maybe not a good day to roll out anything... tells you all you need to know

Posted by: John R on April 1, 2009 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Well, which is it? Did Republican economic policies create the recession, or did they merely contribute to it?

The tax cuts and spending merely conributed. But add to that deregulation, failure to enforce existing regulations, pushing the "ownership society" program, low interest rates, the invitation to immigrants who would "do jobs Americans don't want to do", encouraging outsourcing, making off-shore tax havens easy, failure to deal with oil speculation, etc. and I think you more than just tax policy that contributed.

Posted by: Danp on April 1, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Don't make the mistake of thinking the Republicans are making a good faith effort on the budget. They have no intention of offering a serious alternative; this "budget proposal" is all politics, an appeal to their base that relies on nostrums, myths and simple-minded emotional appeals. It's the usual Republican strategy that's all about politics and not about governing. They're not interested in (nor capable of) governing. To them, everyone is one big college Republican game where the point is to f%$#$ the opponent. Country first!

Posted by: jrw on April 1, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP economic philosophy has been "borrow and spend" for a long time now ... how odd that the Republicans get outraged about it when they're out of power.

Posted by: KTinOhio on April 1, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry !!
Here's the REAL April Fool

'...Neal Wolin, played a key role in drafting legislation in the late 1990s deregulating the banking system...'

Wolin has apparently been selected to be the Second in Command at Treasury !!

HUH ?
Can't find ANYONE ELSE ??

How about Paul Krugman ? Robert Reich ? Joseph Stiglitz ? Jaems Galbreath ??

Why the Wall Street guys ??

Posted by: MSierra, SF on April 1, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

borrow-and-spend

Well, give the man credit. He has at least a slight grip on reality.

Most Republicans are still using the term "tax-and-spend" on Obama's policies, and still claiming that taxes are going up under Obama despite all facts to the contrary. Amongst redstaters it's common to joke about "Obama's going to take your money".

"borrow and spend" was, of course, what Republicans like Reagan and Bush did. Even Little ol' Palin in Wasilla did that, arriving as mayor to a balanced budget and leaving her town with a $20M+ debt.

Also "borrow and spend" doesn't have the same effect as the "tax and spend" slogan did. Yet the fact that Ryan is avoiding the "tax and spend" term means that there is at least some part of him that can't just flat out lie for his party.

Posted by: Cool on April 1, 2009 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Of course they are trying to destroy the economy - if Obama succeeds, they are out of power for at least two terms.

Posted by: SteinL on April 1, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "Funding for education, healthcare, the environment, infrastructure, law enforcement, and medical research would all be slashed, while the wealthiest Americans are rewarded with massive new tax cuts."

There is nothing "crazy" about the Republicans' proposals.

The Republicans are offering policy proposals that have proved effective at enriching and empowering their ultra-rich white-collar crook corporate financial backers at the expense of, and to the detriment of, the American people.

Government of, by, and for America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc. is what the Republican Party stands for -- because that's what they are paid to stand for by their owners.

The Republicans are not "crazy". What they are is profoundly dishonest -- which is out of necessity, since they would never hold any public office if they openly campaigned on their agenda of ruthless, rapacious, relentless class warfare by the corporate oligarchy against everyone else.

That's why they sell policies that are plainly intended to massively transfer wealth and power to a tiny, ultra-wealthy, ultra-powerful minority as policies intended to address the economic crisis.

Liberals and Democrats do themselves no favors by imagining that the Republicans are stupid, or crazy, or don't know what they are doing.

The Republicans know exactly what they are doing. The Republicans know exactly what the results of their proposals would be: further concentration of wealth and power in the hands of their corporate masters, and further impoverishment of the American people.

A nation ruled by a tiny, ultra-rich, hereditary minority lording over a population of impoverished, insecure, cheap-labor serfs is the Republican idea of a "strong economy".


Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 1, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

How about Paul Krugman ? Robert Reich ? Joseph Stiglitz ? James Galbraith ??

On record as not wanting it.
On record as not wanting it.
On record as not wanting it.
On record as not wanting it.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on April 1, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Alright, let's pretend that this plan is legitimate and worthy of debate...why is defense the only spending that won't get frozen?


What is with the Republican obsession with the military? This lowly Canadian really REALLY doesn't understand the crazy hyper-militarism that occurs on the American Right.

(no honestly, in what normal world is the NBC hockey "net-cam" brought to me by the Marines? It's just weird.)

Posted by: neilt on April 1, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

To them, everyone is one big college Republican game where the point is to f%$#$ the opponent.

Well, sure. Go back to the book "The Authoritarians". There was that experiement, repeated several times, involving a simulation of global governments over several decades into the future. This had been run numerous times with different groups.

Then they set up control groups consisting of: a) only people who scored high as Right Wing Authoritarians on the attitudes and values tests, and b) groups who included a mix of people, but no one from the (a) type.

The (b) groups tended to perform extremely well, cooperating to solve problems. The (a) groups would quickly blow up the world.

Now, you could argue that the simulation was biased towards certain personality types, and it might have been. But even after the (a) people were shown what they had done wrong and allowed to go back a few steps to correct it, they would restart and blow up the world again -- or in slightly better scenarios merely wipe out most of the world's population.

The (a) groups were consistently combative and uncooperative. Yes, each role player was supposed to be self-interested (as a representative of a country or an NGO), but they interpreted that self-interest as never helping outsiders, and screwing outsiders whenever possible. Even when they knew that their country was facing a crisis that could only be resolved by cooperation with neighboring countries they just could never agree.

Now, the funny thing is that these authoritarians -- who are the Republican base -- don't always act this way in cooperative settings like churches or even business. But when you get to an international level their tribal instincts seem to take over.

Which is why these people should never be allowed back into government.

Posted by: Cool on April 1, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

A nation ruled by a tiny, ultra-rich, hereditary minority lording over a population of impoverished, insecure, cheap-labor serfs is the Republican idea of a "strong economy". - Posted by: SecularAnimist

Indeed. And look how well that's succeeded.

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 1, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Rumor has it that Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, is one of the House GOP Caucus' sharper members.

High praise indeed....

Posted by: Stefan on April 1, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

When is the government going after those offshore accounts, where the wealthy hide hundreds of trillions in secret accounts and evade hundreds of billions in taxes every year. That might even balance the budget.

Posted by: JS on April 1, 2009 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget that a major tentacle of the Republican monster has been the ultra-religious right who sincerely, if insanely, believe that Jesus can only return if the world is brought to the brink of destruction and who have been actively pursuing that suicidal strategy for some time now.

They've lost most of their influence but their pawns and dupes in Congress have been acting out their fantasies for so long they just keep doing it because they don't know how to do anything else.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on April 1, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats should frame tax cuts for the wealthy as 'looting of the Treasury', because that is what it is.

Posted by: Ohioan on April 1, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

"What is with the Republican obsession with the military?" -Posted by: neilt

I think because hyper-spending on defense and unilateral, bullyish attitudes towards foreign policy are suppsed trademarks of their greatest idol, Ronald Reagan.

Not to mention that in their worldview, adapting any kind of position that questions military expenditures, or supports reducing defense spending is only something that those dirty hippie liberals do, when their not burning flags and calling American servicemembers "baby killers".

And, personally, I think a lot of Republicans and conservatives, who decided not to serve in the military when they were of the age, try to make up for it by being the loudest supporters of defense spending. As if they can somehow suck off the sacrifice and duty of those who are serving, and claim it as their own.

Posted by: 2Manchu on April 1, 2009 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

My up to the minute thought about the Republicans - nihilists the lot of 'em! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 1, 2009 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

What needs to be understood about Republicans is they have no desire to fix economic problems. They literally do not believe in the concept of "fixing the economy". They only believe in reducing the size of government and cutting taxes. This is all they have ever proposed to do in the last 10-15 years.

Instead they believe in the infallibility of the free market as an article of faith, literally. To them, there is nothing wrong with a free market, even when it drives the economy into a deep depression, because it is perfectly natural. And any attempt at regulating, guiding, or any of that, even hwen it comes to creating markets, is misguided and insane. Because markets are up there with God, omnipotent, omniscient, infallible and perfect, and you can't tell God what to do. It's like they have blinders on, they hear no evil, see no evil, lalalalalalalala I'm not listening! I can't hear you!

As a result their thinking on economics has devolved into little more than cutting taxes and (when Democrats are in power) balancing the budget). In fact, I'm not sure there is *any* more to it than that. They are completely bereft of ideas, even of the capacity to form ideas, due to their dogma.

Posted by: Rian Mueller on April 1, 2009 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

To add to the April Fools joke, the GOP expects to balance the budget by making the tax cuts on the super rich "voluntary" and assuming that they won't take advantage of the cuts.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/01/gop-budget-plan-assumes-a_n_181779.html

Posted by: Disputo on April 1, 2009 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Paul Ryan is a fraternity brother of mine from Miami University in Ohio and -- although I am about as much of a socialist liberal, Obamessiah-lovin', tax-n-spend, Chicago politics (whatever that means) Democrat as anyone -- I am proud to know that he actually IS one of the more rational and intelligent House repubs. It is nice to know that the good-looking Janesville party boy whom all the ladies loved in Oxford has turned into a national political player. But, good Lord, Ryan, what a hot mess your "budget" is. Dude, explain to me again how someone would actually choose to be taxed at the higher 35% rate rather than your proposed 25% rate? Really?

Posted by: Tevya on April 1, 2009 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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