Political Animal


October 25, 2011 1:30 PM Paul Ryan discovers irony, blasts ‘painful austerity’

By Steve Benen

I can’t relate to Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) right-wing ideology on any level, any more than I can appreciate his love of Ayn Rand novels. But once in a while I’m reminded that the gap between the House Budget Committee chairman and those who appreciate reason goes well beyond political philosophy.

Consider this Ryan quote, flagged yesterday by Alan Pyke:

“Let’s review for a moment the path we are on, where we stand right now. It pains me to say this, but it’s become clear that the president has committed us to the current path: higher taxes, more dependency, more bureaucratic control, inaction on the drivers of our debt — just not even dealing with it — and painful austerity, the kind you see in Europe.”

I was going to write that I have no idea what Paul Ryan is talking about, but it’s far more accurate to say Paul Ryan has no idea what Paul Ryan is talking about.

To characterize President Obama’s “current path” as one featuring “higher taxes” is rather foolish, given that Obama has repeatedly cut taxes — even more than his conservative Republican predecessor did. To complain that Obama refuses to “deal with … the drivers of our debt” is even more bizarre, since the president offered congressional Republicans a $4 trillion debt-reduction plan (GOP leaders said it wasn’t right-wing enough), and in September, unveiled another, more sensible plan that would achieve $3.2 trillion in debt reduction. This isn’t “inaction” on the issue; it’s the opposite.

But it’s that last line from Ryan that stands out as truly ridiculous. The Republicans’ alleged budget wonk is warning against European-style “painful austerity”? This is just madness.

For months, GOP officials have been praising European-style austerity and demanding that U.S. policymakers follow Europe’s lead on this (except the parts in which Europe reduced their deficits by raising taxes). Now Ryan is warning against it?

More to the point, Ryan is the one pushing for austerity measures, as evidenced by his budget plan that slashed spending, specifically targeting programs that benefit working families, imposing widespread pain in the name of deficit reduction. It was a sham, of course — Ryan also wanted to cut taxes on the wealthy, which made his talk about fiscal responsibility look ridiculous — but he insisted that austerity was necessary to improve economic “confidence.”

And yet, here’s a speech in which Ryan complaining that the Obama White House has the nation on course for “painful austerity.”

Apparently, the House Budget Committee chairman would have us believe we have to accept an austerity agenda in order to avoid accepting an austerity agenda.

Pyke described this as “insane.” I’m very much inclined to agree.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Todd for VT House on October 25, 2011 1:34 PM:

    They're panicked by OWS, trying to coopt the message, and without any real conviction on the matters at hand can only produce word salad worthy of Queen Palin herself. Also.

  • c u n d gulag on October 25, 2011 1:36 PM:

    I don't think ANY Republican knows wtf they're talking about.

    I think they just pull little magnetized words off their refrigerators and take them out for a spin in a sentence blaming President Obama for something.

    Of course, the word salad-shooter theory is still a valid one.

  • Burr Deming on October 25, 2011 1:38 PM:

    Ever since we found out that the famous Paul Ryan plan to abolish medicare would "cut" the deficit by almost exactly the amount President Obama would reduce spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have had no faith at all in media coverage. I am still amazed that the GOP would hawk a plan where pretty much every penny of deficit reduction come from a peace dividend they had nothing to do with, and even more amazed that media outlets would not be reporting it.

  • MattF on October 25, 2011 1:41 PM:

    It's two things-- 1) reflexive opposition to anything Obama does, says, thinks, or tries to do and 2) reflexive association of Obama with anything that sounds bad. Any association of Obama with anything positive is simply impossible, by definition.

  • liam foote on October 25, 2011 1:48 PM:

    A native Badger and Cheesehead with some family and many friends still denizens of Dairyland, I have been assured that Paul Ryan, who I always have rather liked, is just tacking to the right during this period of inanity and will return to normal after the elections. Now I am not so sure.

    Scramble the letters in Ayn Rand and you can make "and Ryan"

  • Gummo on October 25, 2011 1:52 PM:

    At another blog discussing this disingenuous bilge from Ryan, they pointed out that "austerity" doesn't poll well right now, so of course Republicans will denounce it, and try to stick it on Obama.

    Makes as much sense as anything they do.

  • Rich on October 25, 2011 1:54 PM:

    It's of course designed to get these talking points into the media, who will do anything to lose access to this loser. Even discussing the merits here is a waste of time.

  • jlt on October 25, 2011 1:55 PM:

    The latest repub scripted mantra is 'failed' ...just another in a long line that has no basis in fact nor merits to be argued...Lies, name calling, obstruction and distortion...That is all we have from the right for years!

    The media is SLOWLY reporting the BS machine...Corporate owned is not working well---with most ratings being in the congressional realm of the low digits!

  • DAY on October 25, 2011 1:56 PM:

    Almost any utterance by any Republican brings to mind the husband caught in flagrante delecto, and saying, "Who you gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?"

  • Bob M on October 25, 2011 2:08 PM:

    Madness and Paul Ryan go very well in a sentence. It's those cold unblinking eyes.

  • Kathryn on October 25, 2011 2:09 PM:

    Since there is never ever push back for contradictory/insane comments from the stenographers on the press, Ryan and all GOP mouths can say whatever they like to fool the public. They can be all things to all people, no questions asked. But let Joe Biden suggest crime could go up due to lack of policemen and he gets five pinnochios from the Washington Post. Maybe he overstated it, but lack of cops on the beat, not arresting wife beaters in Kansas or wherever it is cannot aid the citizenry.

    By the way thumbs up to Martin Bashir at 3:00p. on MSNBC, he's very good.

  • Gov't Mule on October 25, 2011 2:14 PM:

    Or does Ryan think that raising taxes on millionaires amounts to painful European-style austerity?

  • T2 on October 25, 2011 2:15 PM:

    these guys have no plan. That why their "leaders" constantly contradict their own positions.....the positions are just hot air. What's more, they don't want any positions....they just want to sit there, watch the country go bad and then blame the black guy. That's the only plan I've ever heard them agree on- blame the black guy. The racist Pat Buchanan says it all in his new screed...it's all there to read.

  • kevo on October 25, 2011 2:17 PM:

    Wow! What a quote! It alone indicates the gibberish Ryan and his Republican cohorts are willing to utter in public company. It also represents an intellectual sickness where verifiable observation and reason take a back seat to whim and privilege!

    Ryan seems unfit to be called leader, but rather more suited to be named apologist for the top 2%!

    The disconnect is laughable on the surface, and very dangerous on the substance for a people yearning for opportunity and middle class economic certainty!

    Tell your friends, loved ones and neighbors 2012 will surely be the demise of livelihood if indeed Republicans win at the polls! -Kevo

  • Anonymous on October 25, 2011 2:20 PM:

    But isn't this, calling Obama's proposals austerity, just a form of Swiftboating: taking the (negative) things people say about YOU to attack your opponent (although such an attack makes no sense)?

  • kevo on October 25, 2011 2:22 PM:

    Another thought about Ryan and his party's rhetorical penchant:

    They seem to speak the English language, but rarely seem to know the meaning of the words they use!

    Disturbing in the least, lethal at the most! -Kevo

  • hells littlest angel on October 25, 2011 2:30 PM:

    Ryan is simply trying to appeal to the people who voted for him. You know, stupid people.

  • jjm on October 25, 2011 2:30 PM:

    The GOP blah blah blah has really really gotten stale.

    I doubt the public is listening to them much, anymore, as they yell that the guy who got Osama is weak on terror, that he lost the Iraq war, and that he is responsible for the bad levels of unemployment.

    Polls show that the public does not believe the GOP on these issues--how could they?

    I see the GOP as desperate and clutching at straws. The other day you ran a piece on how annoyed they are by the absence of scandals under Obama.

    How Romney and Perry and Cain can run on privatizing Social Security, killing healh reform and raising taxes on the middle and lower classes beats me.

  • Mimikatz on October 25, 2011 2:35 PM:

    It is a combination of cynicism and ideological rigidity. Ryan takes his ideological principles and then accuses Obama of doing the opposite, regardless of the facts. Then he advocates for whatever comforts to his principles (lower taxes for the rich,smaller government except on issues like abortion and gay marriage) again irrespective of any facts, and presto, he has his policy. And he believes it will keep him and his party in power because its so awesome the public loves It. That's where I think his obliviousness to facts will trip him up.

  • Josef K on October 25, 2011 2:40 PM:

    Pyke described this as “insane.” I’m very much inclined to agree.

    At what point does simple ignorance cease to be a legitimate excuse, and idiocy like this is nothing but conscious malice? 'Cause this guy is pushing it beyond rational bounds.

  • June on October 25, 2011 2:48 PM:

    And the roomful of people at the "Indiana Republican Party's fall dinner" where Ryan made these remarks just nodded their heads and applauded, no doubt (and no, I wouldn't expect any other reaction). Ryan put forth a medley of blatant lies married to hypocrisy, and I'm sure the folks in attendance lined up to shake his hand and to get their picture taken with him. This is the kind of thing that truly scares me about the Republican Party.

  • SYSPROG on October 25, 2011 2:57 PM:

    He is a manipulative LIAR. Not 'confused', not 'stupid', not 'uninformed'. He is a LIAR.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 25, 2011 9:38 PM:

    This is just the way Republicans roll. Wait till when they want to spend again. They'll accuse Democrats from preventing the stimulus the country needed all along. It's what they do. Democrats should just go ahead and tell the public that that is what the Republicans will say.

  • Raven on October 25, 2011 11:34 PM:

    Not "irony," alas — Paul Ryan is incapable of any form of humor, for that requires a sense of perspective — but rather projection on Ryan's part, accusing Obama of Ryan's own policies.

    And this is nothing new from Republicans; we saw it from the Bush/Cheney administration, from the GOP during the Clinton years, from the Nixon and Reagan and Bush White Houses. Anytime you ever wanted to know what the Republicans were going to do next, all you had to do was look at what they were accusing the Democrats of wanting to do.

    For just one example, in 2000 Bush's supporters accused Gore of trying to steal the election. Next thing you knew, GOP Congressional aides and party reps showed up in photos of the "local Florida riots" at election board offices to prevent recounts (successfully). There were no corresponding Democratic "riots" to preserve and protect the recount process, unfortunately. Bush later rewarded his rioters with lavish dinners and awards with ballot chads suspended in lucite. So much for his knowing nothing about it.

    Why be surprised now if the Republicans still uphold the standards of honesty set by Watergate, October Surprise, Iran-Contra, and Black Eagle?

  • w on October 29, 2011 6:07 PM:

    its obvious he just doesnt know what the word "austarity" means.

    not "insanity", just a horrific level of ignorance.

  • w on October 29, 2011 6:09 PM:

    sorry-- "austerity"... stupid tablet... ;)