The cruel impoverishment of the debate among the presidential and congressional candidates took a gigantic leap into the pits with Mitt Romney’s selection of 42-year-old Rep. Paul Ryan from the deindustrialized town of Janesville, Wisconsin. Ryan is invariably described by reporters as “an intellectual leader of the conservative movement” and by fellow Republicans as a person “who tells the hard truths” to the American people.
The truth is that what has distinguished this fast-talking, glib, Ayn Rand-smitten, congenial young man is that he has a plan for the federal budget. On Capitol Hill that fact alone makes one a “stand-out” in the field of political narcissists whose mental tank harbors gaseous one-liners and kneejerk slogans.
The Ryan budget plan is a Koch brothers’ dream and the American peoples’ nightmare. It leads with a lie – namely to control deficit spending by continuing it for at least 30 more years before his concoction of big tax cuts for the rich, further increases in the already bloated defense budget, and savage cuts in public services for the people, somehow balance the budget around mid-century.
Ryan’s brain is chock-full of such cognitive dissonance that it would blow a normal person’s mind. He is a practicing Catholic, but since his youth has been a disciple of the militant atheist Ayn Rand who despised altruism and “love thy neighbor” values while edifying extreme selfishness and greed.
His plan for social security is social insecurity. Make people work longer before receiving curtailed benefits, invest trillions of dollars of these funds in the volatile stock market and make sure that rich people only have to pay social security taxes on a fraction of their earned income.
He would open the floodgates on future Medicare to the rapacious health insurance companies through a voucher system whereby the elderly are fed to these sharks with ever-higher co-pays. His “block grant plan alone would lead states to drop between 14 and 27 million people (the poor and those with disabilities) from Medicaid by 2021,” according to the Urban Institute.
As a 16-year-old youngster, Ryan and his family were helped by social security when his father passed away. So why now impose this draconian crunch on these three major programs? Ryan says that this is the only way to preserve social security, Medicare and Medicaid for future generations. Very well, Mr. Ryan, then why have you refused to civilly debate your proposals and their consequences with any of your critics inside and outside the Congress before a national television audience?
I requested that you have this important exchange in three letters (see Nader.org). Finally, your office demurred on the grounds that you were too busy. Are you really too busy to debate your plan which has passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and has been generally endorsed by Mitt Romney? Or are you too fearful of trying to defend your numbers and their plutocratic values to the likes of Princeton professor and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, who has called the Ryan budget “the most fraudulent in American history”?
Cognitive dissonance proliferates. His hometown has been devastated by pull-down trade agreements yet he supports NAFTA and the World Trade Organization. He sees himself as a fiscal hawk while being an armchair warrior and military hawk (he wants to stay and win in Afghanistan). He offers “to restore the dreams and greatness of America” but opposes both public works projects to repair America and environmental health standards so Americans can breathe, drink, eat and work more safely.
He proposes deep cuts in widespread hunger alleviating food stamps. He opposes the minimum wage while he fights to eliminate or reduce taxes on capital gains and other taxes on the already undertaxed very-wealthy who have poured money into his and other Republicans’ campaign kitties.
He professes to be against crony capitalism, but he voted for the giant Wall Street bailouts and other bailouts and giveaways that define what real conservatives find so offensive.
An outraged David A. Stockman, President Reagan’s first director of the Office of Management and Budget, dismisses Ryan’s conservative credentials. He said that Calvin Coolidge, Herbert C. Hoover, Senator Robert A. Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and even Gerald A. Ford “would have had no use for the neoconservative imperialism…”
“In short,” wrote Stockman in The New York Times, “Mr. Ryan’s plan is devoid of credible math or hard policy choices…. Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have no plan to take on Wall Street, the Fed, the military-industrial complex, social insurance or the nation’s fiscal calamity and no plan to revive capitalist prosperity – just empty sermons.”
So Mr. Ryan is a closet corporatist who won’t even urge cracking down on the hundreds of billions of dollars that companies defraud the federal government every year, including documented fraud on Medicare, Medicaid and the Defense Department.
If the Democrats can’t use the Ryan budget as their ticket to victory this November in Congress and the White House, then they are truly the terminally decaying party of caution, cash and cowardliness.
In reality, the Ryan budget, thrown right in the face of the American people, is the ultimate test of what’s left of the Democrats besides their donkey.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.