Aug 11, 2012

Paul Ryan and Pundit Herding

Starve granny! Because Serious Serious Serious!
Witness Lord Saletan in Slate earning a special citation to go with his Wanker of the Decade 5th Runner-Up award:
A wonderful thing has happened for this country. Paul Ryan will be the Republican nominee for vice president.
Ryan is a real fiscal conservative. He isn’t just another Tea-Party ideologue spouting dogma about less government and the magic of free enterprise. He has actually crunched the numbers and laid out long-term budget proposals. My liberal friends point out that Ryan’s plan leaves many details unclear. That’s true. But show me another Republican who has addressed the nation’s fiscal problems as candidly and precisely as Ryan has. He’s got the least detailed budget proposal out there, except for all the others.
What?? What kind of fiscal conservative starts out with a stupendous tax cut and refuses entirely to say how he'll pay for it? Wait, don't tell me. I think I smell me some High Broderism coming up.
Ryan refutes the Democratic Party’s bogus arguments. He knows that our domestic spending trajectory is unsustainable and that liberals who fail to get it under control are leading their constituents over a cliff, just like in Europe. Eventually, you can’t borrow enough money to make good on your promises, and everyone’s screwed. Ryan understands that the longer we ignore the debt crisis and postpone serious budget cuts—the liberal equivalent of denying global warming—the more painful the reckoning will be. There’s nothing compassionate about that kind of irresponsibility. 
Maybe, like me, you were raised in a liberal household. You don’t agree with conservative ideas on social or foreign policy. But this is why God made Republicans: to force a reality check when Democrats overpromise and overspend.
Tell, us, oh wise Lord, how The Other Side Is Also Wrong:
Ryan refutes the GOP’s bogus arguments, too. He proves that you don’t need private-sector experience to be a good lawmaker. He proves that a genuine conservative, as opposed to a Tea-Party ideologue, votes for bailouts when economic sanity requires them. Ryan also shows that a real conservative doesn’t worship any part of the budget, including defense. His expenditure caps can’t be squared with Romney’s nutty pledge to keep military spending above four percent of GDP. And Ryan destroys Romney’s ability to continue making the dishonest, anti-conservative argument that Obamacare is evil because it cuts Medicare. Now Romney will have to defend the honest conservative argument, which is that Medicare spending should be controlled.
Sheesh. One more gruesome graf:
So what? Screw the polls. Republicans will be on the right side of the spending debate. They’ll be on the right side of the substance debate, too. Instead of bickering about Romney’s tax returns and repeating the obvious but unhelpful observation that the unemployment rate sucks, we’ll actually have to debate serious problems and solutions. That’s great for the country.
What an ignorant, elitist twit. Anyway, let me set aside the fact this whole framing is insane. That's true and will continue to be so. As Yglesias says, we are in a depression, and neither party seems to care about that much anymore. Who gives a shit about taxes or the debt? People are literally paying us to take their money! Put people back to work! (Deep breath.)

What interests me about this is that somehow the elite pundit corps, led around by Paul Ryan and his cronies, have successfully managed to change the subject again from the great yawning unemployment crisis to the imaginary debt crisis. Occupy Wall Street gave us a few months of real problems, but now we're back.

How do the deficit scolds manage this? They're enormous hypocrites, Ryan more than most. He voted for every one of the Bush's budget-busting tax cuts, assorted wars, Medicare Part D, and TARP. As Jon Chait detailed in a great New York piece, Ryan used to be openly scornful of people who would put cutting the deficit above cutting taxes on the rich:
“We noticed that the green-eyeshade, austerity wing of the party was afraid of class warfare,” Ryan said during Bush’s first term. “They fear increases in the debt, and they were overlooking issues of growth, opportunity, and free markets.” For those uninitiated in the tribal lingo of Beltway conservatives, this may sound like gibberish. But those inside the conservative subculture invest these buzzwords with deep meaning. “Green eyeshade” is a term of abuse appropriated by the supply-siders to describe Republicans who still cared more about deficit control than cutting taxes. “Growth” and “opportunity” mean tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the rich, and “class warfare” means any criticism thereof. Ryan’s centrist admirers hear his frequent confessions that both parties have failed as an ideological concession. What he means is that Republicans were insufficiently fanatical in their devotion to cutting taxes for the rich.
And yet, this known history doesn't prevent Saletan from collapsing in uncontrollable ecstasy every time Paul Ryan says something.

There are two possibilities, I think. One is that Ryan is just really good at manipulating the ignorant, gullible, and lazy political press, who can't be bothered to put this stuff in context or read budgets and figure out what they mean. Or, Ryan just flatters the fiscal-conservative, pro-war, bipartisanship-uber-alles prejudices of the ignorant, gullible, and lazy political press, who can't be bothered to put this stuff in context or read budgets and figure out what they mean, so he gives them an excuse to write columns about Making Hard Choices on Entitlements (meaning starve granny and stick it to the poors).

Finally, Ryan is hated by the left, which is the ultimate Beltway stamp of approval. Nothing is ever so popular here as punching some good old hippie.

Whatever the case, I hope some enterprising young lefty politico out there is watching this collective media orgasm. It plainly doesn't matter what you put in your plan. If you can talk about the right things, sound like you know some statistics, and seem mild-mannered and polite, the centrist pundits will follow you like the Pied Piper. Might come in handy sometime.

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