Rob Zerban, taking on Paul Ryan and the 1%
Mitt Romney has thrown his lot in with Paul Ryan's Big Business-conceived plan to end Medicare and turn back the clock on a progressive society. His own healthcare plans are a misleading, confused, jumble of contradictions that leaves his listeners nonplused, at best. So now he's just all about "What Paul Ryan says."
And you know what Paul Ryan says... end Medicare and Medicaid, end Pell Grants, and privatize Social Security so the wealthy can pay even fewer taxes. Ryan's even more dangerous than just another Ayn Rand-infatuated wonk. Wall Street isn't financing his career-- and keeping him on a path to the White House-- because they want a wonk. He's out to change the world-- and that's very bad. Both he and Romney are part of what's being called the austerity class.
The unholy alliance between the austerity class and supply-side conservatives, who talk a good game about deficits but in fact care principally about cutting taxes and government spending, has shifted the debate over the economy and the deficit far to the right since Obama took office. By promoting an age of austerity, the deficit hawks have enhanced the power of “starve the beast” conservatives like Grover Norquist, whose goal for years has been to shred the New Deal. The austerity class’s infatuation with Representative Paul Ryan is a prime example of this addled love affair.
In 2008, when Ryan introduced his radical budget road map-- which called for turning Medicare into a voucher system, privatizing Social Security and redistributing income upward by drastically cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations-- MacGuineas praised his “tremendous courage and leadership.” When Ryan reintroduced his plan in 2010, the CRFB lauded his “thoughtfulness and courage.” The CRFB failed to mention that Ryan’s plan would increase the deficit, from a debt-to-GDP ratio of 60 percent in 2010 to 175 percent by 2050. “Paul Ryan added a huge amount to the deficit,” says John Irons, policy director at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). “To call that even remotely fiscally responsible was not a correct analysis. It’s almost as if they said, We don’t care what your plan does-- as long as you talk tough on deficits we’re going to support you.”
Indeed, in January the CRFB, the Concord Coalition and the Comeback America Initiative (all funded by the Peterson Foundation) gave Ryan a cherished fiscal responsibility award, despite his deficit-exploding budget, hostility to tax increases and votes in favor of the Bush administration’s deficit spending. Bob Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, introduced Ryan by quoting Time magazine: “The irony of Ryan’s rise is that he has vaulted to popularity by embracing historically unpopular ideas.” Said Bixby, “And I thought to myself, now there is a deficit hawk…. If we limit ourselves to popular ideas, we’re never going to solve the problem.”
MacGuineas said the award honored Ryan for being the first politician to put forth a budget plan in 2011, which she called “the most fiscally responsible of any of the plans.” Technically, that’s true. Ryan’s budget, a modified version of his road map, achieves a modest $155 billion in savings over ten years by proposing what the CBPP calls “the most severe and wrenching budget cuts in US history-- two-thirds of which would come from programs for people of low or moderate incomes” (i.e., Medicaid, Pell grants, food stamps and low-income housing).
The award to Ryan illustrates just how dangerously obtuse the austerity class’s definition of fiscal responsibility is. The deficit hawks succeed by making the debate over the deficit a pure accounting game, with no acknowledgment of the adverse impact a plan like Ryan’s would have on the broader economy and on so many Americans if it became law. “If [you’re] willing to slash spending so that long-run deficits are brought under control, then it’s fiscally responsible,” Jim Horney, vice president for federal fiscal policy at CBPP, says of the Ryan plan. “But if by fiscally responsible you mean putting the budget on a sustainable path but making sure that government is able to meet the needs of the people of the United States, then I think it’s a terribly irresponsible plan.”
These are reactionary men with stultifying, dark, crippled visions, visions that will never move our country forward-- in fact, quite the contrary. Conservative philosopher Michael Oakeshott could have been describing Paul Ryan crabbed little world when he defined conservatism as "to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss."
And I've watched in dismay for years as the DCCC and to some extent the Wisconsin Democratic Party have protected and enabled Ryan. Obama won his congressional district but the DCCC has always made certain that he would never have a credible opponent. And he never has. This year, though, the DCCC may not help-- I doubt they will-- but they were unable to slip in the usual incompetent who would give Ryan a free ride to reelection. Rob Zerban is a Kenosha County Supervisor who is more in touch with the zeitgeist than the clueless and pampered Ryan could ever hope to be. This past weekend he spent the day at OccupyMilwaukee... talking with the folks there and tweeting his experiences. He has a progressive perspective on the place of government in society-- the polar opposite of Ryan's reactionary one. Yesterday, in an e-mail to people in the district he reminded them that "Ryan authored the destructive and heartless Republican plan to destroy Medicare and Social Security. He is wrong about what our country needs, and that is why I am running to set our nation on a new, responsible course." He went on:
I understand how the government can help Americans achieve their dreams. I grew up in a family that struggled to make ends meet. I ate government cheese and had free lunch in school. My single mother was able to provide for us because of the help of the American government. I was able to attend school because of grants and loans. This is the kind of help tea party conservatives want to take away from millions of Americans who need our help now more than ever.
Because America invested in me, I was able to start two small businesses and created 45 jobs. I always took care of my employees and provided them with excellent wages and benefits. From creating jobs in the private sector, I know what our economy needs and am ready to go head-to-head with the tea party to show America a better economic vision.
Our nation needs a new direction. The slash and burn philosophy of Paul Ryan and conservatives is leading us off a cliff!
I can do a better job.
Blue America thinks he can do a better job too-- which is why we're urging progressives to step up and do what the DCCC will never do: Stop Paul Ryan.