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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Paul Ryan, Opportunist in Hawkish Clothing | 03-19-2013
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The Rational Center | Commentary by John Zaring
| Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013

johnzaring2012Paul Ryan released his “Path to Prosperity” budget last week, and his third annual performance of smoke and mirrors is, at best, a pathway to hypocrisy.  In the previous two years, Ryan’s budgets were brutally imbalanced if not mathematically impossible, but this year he has managed to cross into delusional, as well.

In his press conference, Ryan actually said this year’s budget reflected the will of the American people.

“Are a lot of these solutions very popular and did we win these arguments on the campaign?,” Ryan asked the gathered press. “Some of us think so,”

Well, some of you apparently are crazy because in the real world, Ryan and his running mate Mitt Romney lost last year’s presidential campaign, an election whose central argument was over how to move America forward.

In truth, nothing went Ryan’s way – not his state or even his home town – so I’m wondering which people he’s talking about. He certainly can’t mean the people who sent President Barack Obama back to the White House in what turned out to be an overwhelming victory.

Do you remember that he and Romney opposed the tax hikes President Obama was demanding as part of a “fair and balanced” approach to deficit reduction?  Well, Ryan’s latest magical budget includes the very revenue that Obama demanded from those tax hikes – you know, the rate increases that Romney-Ryan vehemently argued would derail the economy by hurting the so-called “job creators.”

How does Ryan justify this 180-degree swing?

To quote him, he said the battle was fought and lost, so he isn’t “going to re-litigate the past,” which means he gets to include the revenue.  Remarkably, though, that same attitude apparently doesn’t apply to another piece of settled legislation, the Affordable Care Act.  Ryan includes a repeal of Obamacare, which, of course, is as much of a fantasy as anything Harry Potter ever conjured up.

Ryan’s plan also includes the biggest tax break in history, dropping rates on the wealthiest Americans  from 39 percent to 25 percent, and he pays for it with some of the most brutal cuts to social programs for the middle class, working people and the poor in, well, also history.  In other words, he cuts the “care” right out of Obamacare.

Yet he doesn’t get rid of every element in the president’s plan.  He keeps all of the cost controls, including the $700 billion in Medicare cuts he ran against and railed against during his speech at the Republican convention, and he keeps all of the new taxes, too (which he also voted against).

So let’s review:

Ryan kills the president’s health care program, dumps Medicare for a voucher program, and off-loads the cost of Medicaid to the states.  He repeatedly steals from ordinary people – you remember, the same 47 percent derided by Ryan’s presidential running mate Romney – and gives breaks to the fortunate people at the tippy-top.

If you’ve been beaten like Ryan and the Republicans were in 2012 (don’t forget, in addition to getting whacked by Obama, they lost seats in both the House and Senate, too), why does he pretend the election never happened?  Perhaps because the politics of the Republican caucus simply won’t allow him to consider any other alternative.

It has become apparent that Republicans have no economic ideology beyond trickle-down which, despite the spin, has clearly failed both in theory and execution.  And folks, Paul Ryan is not a deficit hawk. He and those to the right of the right only pretend to be, to service their inner Ann Rynd.

Don’t forget, Ryan (and most Republicans) voted for the Bush tax cuts.  He and they voted for the unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He voted for the completely unfunded Medicare prescription drug benefit.  You might remember his Social Security privatization proposal back in 2005 that George W. Bush rejected because it would be too expensive to enact, with transition costs in the trillions of dollars.

What he is, is an opportunist.

Since almost everyone agrees we need to tackle the deficit, Ryan is simply using the cloak of deficit reduction as a path to advance radical policies.  Ryan and his ilk believe that what the federal government does best is stifle individual creativity, which is a libertarian theory, convinced that when you take government away you create room for the job creators to use their genius to make things better.

I’d argue that government is not America’s problem; our unique and imperfect democracy is what actually elevates us from all of the other countries in the world.

GOP party chair Reince Priebus hit the talk-show circuit this past weekend to announce a $10 million marketing campaign that will attempt to sell their agenda in a different way.  Not a different agenda, mind you, just telling it in a different way.  In other words, more spin and hocus-pocus.

I’m guessing they will find it a tricky proposition to try to convince people outside of their base that they’ve changed, since they can’t stand in front of a group of economically vulnerable folks and say they are for “growth and opportunity” and then move to the Tea Party audience to hawk Ryan’s budget, which cuts Pell grants, food stamps, universal pre-K, Medicaid – all the things that actually support growth and opportunity.

The real truth, of course, is that the GOP is relentlessly hostile to the middle class and poor, especially blacks and ethnic minorities, and they have been at least since the advent of Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” and nothing has changed.  Look closely at the Ryan budget and you will see harm done to everyone not in the top 2 percent.

Good luck spinning that story.


John Zaring describes himself as a reformed Republican turned moderate Democrat who believes democracy works best when its government actually functions because its leaders are working together. He serves on the Castaic Area Town Council’s Land Use Committee, Castaic Middle School’s Site Council, the Hart District’s WiSH Education Foundation, and he is the West Ranch High School representative on the Hart District’s Advisory Council. A self-proclaimed “New Democrat” a la Bill Clinton, he lives in Castaic with his wife of 21 years and their daughters, Fiona, 16, and Kylie, 12. His commentary publishes Tuesdays.


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1 Comment

  1. Reason says:

    Mr. Zaring is so eager in his rush to demonize the GOP that he fails to see the very own contradictions to his arguments. In all of his articles I have seen a liberal sycophant rather than a “Rational Center” where logical reason and arguments backed by facts are sorely missing. Mr. Zaring states that “Ryan’s latest magical budget includes the very revenue that Obama demanded from those tax hikes – you know, the rate increases that Romney-Ryan vehemently argued would
    derail the economy by hurting the so-called “job creators.”” So, Mr. Zaring basically calls Ryan a hypocrite for supposedly supporting tax increases that he and Romney campaigned against but then Mr. Zaring later claims that “Ryan’s plan also includes the biggest tax break in history, dropping rates on the wealthiest Americans from 39 percent to 25 percent”. So which one is he – a tax increase hypocrite or a tax cutter for the wealthy? Mr. Zaring claims that “Ryan’s budgets were brutally imbalanced if not mathematically impossible, but this year he has managed to cross into delusional”. Anyone who cannot recognize that we do have a spending problem at this point has to be delusional. Ryan and the GOP are working on solutions that will prevent painful choices down the road if we don’t get our fiscal house in order and accomplish smart entitlement reform. The only delusional party is Obama and the Democrats who claim that we don’t have a spending problem after spending $6 trillion in just four years and see no reason to change course and end the irresponsible stealing from our future generations.

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