Saturday, March 24, 2012

There Is An Alternative To The Ryan-Romney Pauperization Budget

The DCCC, as expected, hasn't taken us up on our challenge to match a $5,000 check to Rob Zerban, the candidate running to defeat Paul Ryan. Blue America has already contributed over $5,000 to Rob's campaign but we agreed to write a $5,000 PAC check if the DCCC put their money where their mouth is-- they're big about talking smack about GOP villains like Ryan, Boehner and Cantor but never support their opponents and try to actually beat them. They just whine. And "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel... no interest in beating Paul Ryan whatsoever. Ryan's his kinda guy-- and they both take money from the same corrupt corporate sources. Paul Krugman, on the other hand, he's still telling the truth about Ryan and his toxic agenda. Friday:
[H]is plan is really about transferring money from the poor to the rich, with no credible deficit reduction at all... But leaving aside the predictable right-wing cheerleaders, it looks as if the emperor’s nakedness is now common knowledge.

The predictable right-wing cheerleaders may be confused about what to do regarding Ryan's "new" budget, but they can make a lot of noise. Romney, the putative head of the party-- let's face it, all these running around is just to make it seem dramatic and exciting and help raise money-- seems vaguely disoriented by Ryan's assertiveness on behalf of the Wall Street titans who finance both their careers. Maybe he's confused but Romney insisted on Wisconsin radio Friday that Ryan's plan "does not balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the elderly ... It instead preserves Medicare and preserves Social Security." He's wrong, whether confused or just lying again.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget plan would get at least 62 percent of its $5.3 trillion in nondefense budget cuts over ten years (relative to a continuation of current policies) from programs that serve people of limited means. This stands a core principle of President Obama's fiscal commission on its head and violates basic principles of fairness.

While giving a massive tax break to the wealthy, the Ryan budget plan Romney is so fond of slashes funding for Medicaid, food stamps, and other for low-income programs, nearly all of which Ryan's plan would eliminate over the next couple of decades.

As the CBPP's Robert Greenstein put it, "[T]he Ryan budget would impose extraordinary cuts in programs that serve as a lifeline for our nation's poorest and most vulnerable citizens, and over time would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their health insurance or become underinsured." He added that Ryan's plan "would cast tens of millions of less fortunate Americans into the ranks of the uninsured, take food from poor children, make it harder for low-income students to get a college degree, and squeeze funding for research, education, and infrastructure."

If this doesn't "balance the budget on the backs of the poor," for crying out loud, what exactly would such a budget plan look like?

As for "preserving" Medicare, the Ryan plan that Romney supports would turn Medicare into a voucher program, scrapping the guaranteed benefit altogether; weaken Medicare solvency; and bring back the Medicare Part D prescription drug "donut-hole."

Predictably enough, early on in his brilliant book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies About The Economy, Joshua Holland dealt with Romney's dishonest "roadmap," the foundation of the budget Romney was attempting to defend. Holland pointed to an analysis of the Ayn Rand-inspired roadmap by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center: “The Roadmap’s tax provisions would be highly regressive compared with the current tax system.” If the Roadmap were enacted, the bottom 80 percent of the economic ladder would see their after-tax incomes remain about the same, those in the top 1 percent of the economic heap would see theirs shoot up by 26 percent, and the incomes of those in the top tenth of the top 1 percent would increase by 36 percent. The result? According to the Tax Policy Center’s figures, “The share of total taxes paid by the bottom 80 percent would rise from 35 percent to 42 percent,
while the share paid by the top 1 percent would fall by nearly half from 25 percent to 13.5 percent.”

Putting it even more starkly, Holland explains that "Ryan’s proposal would replace the surety of Social Security with privatized accounts held by Wall Street brokerage firms (these firms, in
turn, would gain a fat new stream of fees and have lobbied for the scheme for years)."

A couple of chapters on, Holland is done with Ryan but talking about one of Ryan's favorite topics: so-called "free" markets, something he insists is the basic for a budget that would destroy the middle class and pauperize more than half the families in America.
Perhaps the central and most enduring myth of conservative economics is that there exists an organically functioning “free market.” Conservatives like to portray themselves as self-reliant actors content to brave the cutthroat world of unregulated capitalism and let the chips fall where they may. And they like to portray liberals as timid, looking to the state to be their protective “nanny.”

But economist Dean Baker, the codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, explained why that’s a myth. “What the conservatives have done is they’ve rigged the deck,” he told me. “They’ve made sure that certain people come out ahead, that income flows upward, and that other people are put at a disadvantage-- and these things are built into the rules of the system. And then what they want to do-- in talking about ‘free markets’-- is they want to kick back and say, ‘No, no, no; those are the rules, and we can’t talk about them.’”

According to the dominant narrative, the free market may have some flaws, but it is ultimately such a dynamic force that the meddling of pasty government bureaucrats, no matter how well intentioned, can only throw a wrench in the works and ultimately screw us all.

The kernel of truth behind the mythology is that the free market’s opposite-- the centrally planned economy-- has indeed proved disastrous. It’s pretty clear that economies in which entrepreneurs have the ability to start new businesses, take risks on new ventures, and hopefully come up with a better mousetrap fare significantly better than do those that lack the
relative freedom of liberal capitalism.

From that little nugget of truth, a number of commonly held myths have arisen. First, conservatives conflate the kind of public interest regulations that one finds in all liberal democracies with the central planning that’s helped doom North Koreans to decades of destitution and famine. The reality is that although central planning has been a demonstrable failure, regulation in the public interest is absolutely necessary for markets to work. Greed may be a factor that motivates people to work hard, but unchecked greed-- unconstrained by regulations that protect the public interest-- is a disastrous force. As Robert Pollin, the codirector of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, put it, “It is time to recognize that unregulated financial markets always have, and always will, cause financial crises. There are no historical exceptions to this observation at all. This point has to be grasped.”

Second, listening to the free-marketeers, one might imagine that markets are like mushrooms: organic entities that would grow just fine without the intervention of a human hand. That may have been the case when there were actual physical markets where people came to trade sheep and chickens. But when we speak of the modern “market”-- this complex system for distributing the fruits of a society’s economic output-- we’re talking about an entity created by the government, with rules established by the government.

Goal Thermometer And it’s the rules of the game, much more than some unseen but all-knowing “hidden hand,” that ultimately determine who wins and who loses.

Yes, the law of the Jungle-- which, of course, is very much what Ryan's-- and Romney's-- Wall Street financiers long for... the freedom to exploit everyone else for their own private interests. The alternative isn't the DCCC and their nagging e-mails soliciting donations for Blue Dogs and other conservative hacks and corrupt careerists. The alternative, the one chance we finally have to defeat Paul Ryan and end his political career, is Rob Zerban. Please consider helping his cause by clicking on the thermometer... and doing what you can.

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