Ryan’s budget: Painfollowed by more pain
Watch Paul Ryan flying back and forth to Washington, greeting constituents as he boards the plane—he’s warm and friendly, perfectly approachable. He’s everybody’s favorite son.
Or chat with him about tax policy and tax politics—as I’ve had occasion to do, if only briefly, after a couple of those flights—and he’s engaging, informed, refreshingly candid.
But this latest budget proposal of his? “The Path to Prosperity,” he calls it?
More like “Ryan’s Road to Ruin.”
That’s not true for everybody, of course. For some people, it’s “Let the good times roll!” But for others? Not so good. Not so good at all.
He’s gotten one thing absolutely correct: As a nation, we’re way too deep in debt. We have to do something about it. The longer we delay, the harder it’ll be to climb out of the hole we’ve dug for ourselves.
So that part of his diagnosis is right. But his prescription? Far, far right.
Paul Ryan’s budget is a time-machine budget. It doesn’t merely pretend that Barack Obama was never elected. That health care reform and financial-services reform were never enacted.
Paul Ryan’s budget plan turns back the clock much further than that. It rejects—and tries to dismantle—much of the social progress of the past century. It’s every man for himself.
That might be fine for the folks at the top of the ladder. For the Social Darwinists. For fans of Ayn Rand, the conservative-icon author the congressman has said he finds so inspirational.
But it’s hardly courageous. And it isn’t close to fair.
He asks almost nothing of those who could easily contribute more. And he demands greater and greater sacrifices from those who are already just barely scraping by.
Those who don’t have battalions of lobbyists deployed to protect their interests.
So: Food stamps? Down. Pell Grants? Down. Low-income housing? Down. Medicaid? Down. And so on. And so on.
“This isn’t a budget,” Paul Ryan said last week. “This is a cause.”
That’s something else we can agree on: for Paul Ryan, it’s absolutely a cause.
He’s not proposing what he’s proposing to be mean. Not deliberately, anyway. He’s simply following his core political beliefs to their logical, if somewhat heartless, conclusion.
Just like when he insists a plan like his is necessary to “ensure that America’s safety net does not become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.”
If you didn’t know what a nice guy Paul Ryan is, a comment like that might strike you as incredibly callous—particularly since you don’t find him expressing any remotely similar worries about, say, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy producing a generation of the comparably complacent, dependent, idle rich.
An oversight? Hardly.
But here’s the good news: Paul Ryan’s core beliefs aren’t everyone’s core beliefs. Many Americans don’t believe that the only measure of effective government is “How much spending can you cut?” or “How many programs can you cripple?”
Many Americans understand that a better measure is “Are we helping to create a stronger, fairer, more prosperous nation?” And “Can we find ways to help people help themselves?” And even “Have we tried to protect people who can’t help themselves?”
That’s why societies—and governments—are formed in the first place, yes? To accomplish more together than we ever could separately.
That’s why the preamble to our Constitution pledges to “provide for the common defense,” to “promote the general welfare.” And so on. And so on.
Those are causes, too.
Causes worth supporting.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.