The Magical Asterisk *
Posted March 15, 2013on:
Morning Widdershin friends — here’s hoping your day is one of lighter hearts than Conservatives who offer not one whimper about the potential of 64 million people losing health care, but are gnashing their teeth over well-connected local politicos losing White House tours.
In thinking about the third reincarnation of Ryan’s magical budget, most pundits use Groundhog Day as an analogy, but that’s too easy. Then I think about the definition of insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result,“ but neither does that depict my level of disgust with the steaming 92 pages of omissions, caveats, and magical asterisks.
My mind then wanders to an analogous hypothetical situation of General Bob E. Lee telling General Grant after the Civil War, “Okay, you won, I’m beaten, but that 13th Amendment thing, we need to rethink that.”
Perhaps why he is still taken seriously is found in paraphrasing the old idiom, “In the land of the blind, a one-eyed man is king.” It would have to be changed to, “In the land of the loons, the one who doesn’t drool is the most telegenic,” — maybe that’s the answer.
You’ve heard me say this before (like that is going to stop me from doing it again), but the prescriptions in the House budget are nothing more than campaign slogans masquerading as economic policy bred from Ryan’s teenage crush on the ravenously demagogic rambling of Ayn Rand.
First, everything within Ryan’s budget is based upon the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Everything! Even Chris Wallace of Fox News called his hand on this by saying, “That’s not going to happen.” Ryan countered with, “We can’t give up on our beliefs.” Breaking out the magic decoder ring, this is equivalent to saying, “Just because I’ve never seen a unicorn doesn’t mean I won’t.”
Another Grand Canyon sized chasm is blown in his phantasmagorical projections by reducing all tax rates to just two — 15% and 25%. All the while, he conveniently fails to whisper a word about the impact of eliminating earned income credits and thereby greatly increasing taxes on the working poor while giving the top One Percenters a massive tax cut.
Another thing that is so outrageously hypocritical and seems to escape any discernible acknowledgement by the press is Ryan’s constant droning about the failure to lead by the President or the Senate in their unwillingness to do the “hard stuff.” The hard stuff is what is conveniently left out of the Ryan budget from stem to stern. Dana Milbank puts it like this:
“Now, how do we do this?” Ryan (R-Wis.), the House Budget Committee chairman, asked with a magician’s flourish as he unveiled his budget.
Here’s how: The former Republican vice presidential candidate’s budget eliminates ___ loopholes in the tax code, cutting the ___ and the ____ deductions. It reduces spending on the ____ program by _____ and the _____ program by _____. Retirees would see ____, students would experience ____ and the poor would be _____.
There are so many blanks in Ryan’s budget that it could be a Mad Libs exercise.
The other fiscal leprechaun Ryan seems to be chasing is a “budget balanced at zero” with the folksy quip, “American households do it, the federal government should too.” It is this type of bromide that frosts my flakes — tell me what family pays cash for their home, a new car, and their children’s education? Most economists will tell you, chasing a “zeroed out” budget is chasing a chimera — a gauzy, ephemeral goal that is of no economic benefit other than the political masking of a counter-productivity austerity program.
Therein lies the greatest travesty of Ryan’s budgetary dance of veils — his budget isn’t about balance, it is about changing the basic social compact of a safety net for the least among us. His goal of dismantling the New Deal and Great Society is masked in terms of a Henny Penny-esque cry of “the fiscal sky is falling.” His call for voucherizing Medicare and capping Medicaid by turning it into a state run block grant program is the callous embodiment of the Conservative war cry and Land Rover bumper sticker, “I got mine — sorry about your luck.”
Take for instance Medicaid as a state run block grant program. No longer would there be a floor for levels of service, but rather an uneven patchwork of state administered programs. No longer would we have a federal standard, but a fifty state amalgam of varying services existing at the whim and fancy of Governors like Rick Scott, Scott Walker, Jan Brewer, John Kasich, or Bobby Jindal. It would lead to a 21st Century health care migration the equivalent of The Grapes of Wrath.
The old politico James W. Frick said, “Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.” In that vein, Paul Ryan has become the Homer Simpson of Capital Hill. Where Homer would moan with delight, “Yum, doughnuts,” Paul Ryan grunts, “Yum, magical asterisks!” When your appetite is only whetted by political sophistry, nothing tastes better.
This is an “all skate” open thread.
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