The barn door has closed on yet another episode of CPAC’s Wingnut Woodstock, the annual conclave of conservaschism‘s most extreme proponents. (See our archives for previous entries.)
Among the 70+ speakers were the party’s last two failed GOP Veep candidates, Rep. Paul Ryan (R- Gault’s Gulch), who couldn’t be bothered to even mention his former running mate, Mitt Romney, who was also there; and Sarah Palin (R-Alaskan Quitter), who couldn’t resist sucking up some sugar water poison from a Big Gulp and throwing some red meat to the Birthers while attacking Karl Rove:
“If these experts who keep losin’ elections and keep gettin’ rehired and gettin’ millions — if they feel that strong about who gets to run in this party, then they should buck-up or stay in the truck.”
Rand Paul, who won the presidential straw poll beating Marco Rubio, 25%-23%, also implicitly took a shot at Rove and the establishment wing of the party, calling it “stale and moss covered,” in need of a complete do-over. Rubio took the opposite tack, saying that the party just needed better packaging, everything else is just fine… except maybe their attitude toward immigration, a word that curiously never passed his lips. Ted Cruz responded politely to GOP’s “grey eminence” John McCain, after McCain called him a “whackobird” for supporting Paul’s 13 hour filibuster against extra-judicial targeted killings, ala drone strikes.
All told, over 70 speeches were given. And while Donald Trump said nothing of substance, he will be remembered for making a further investment in self-parody, talking to a room full of empty chairs after tweeting enthusiastically about how the sponsors were expecting a standing room only crowd for the pleasure of his company.
Noticeable for their absence were Past GOP luminaries New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Virgina Governor Bob McDonnell weren’t invited this year because they had committed the unforgivable sin of, you know, actual governance, an activity antithetical to the overriding mission of modern conservatism— the wholesale dismantling of the US government (except as it benefits the 1%).
Which brings us to the substance of Paul Ryan’s speech, his proposed 2014 budget confabulation. The zombie eyed granny starver once again tried to disguise his Ayn Randian flavored social Darwinism as deficit reduction, framing his argument as the only rational approach to a country teetering on the edge of the apocalypse:
Unless we change course, we will have a debt crisis. Pressed for cash, the government will take the easy way out: It will crank up the printing presses. The final stage of this intergenerational theft will be the debasement of our currency. Government will cheat us of our just rewards. Our finances will collapse. The economy will stall. The safety net will unravel. And the most vulnerable will suffer.
But it’s not too late. This budget provides an exit ramp from the current mess— and an entry ramp to a better future. Unlike the President’s last budget, which never balanced, this budget achieves balance within ten years.
Washington Post and MSNBC economic policy wonk Ezra Klein comments:
These are tremendously important paragraphs. They’re emphasized a few pages later, in the first real section of the budget, which is entitled “The Debt Crisis Ahead.” These paragraphs matter because they serve as Ryan’s justification for his budget. They are why we need to throw 35 million people off health insurance. They are why we need to cut deep into education and infrastructure and food stamps and housing assistance. They are why this budget is an act of mercy rather than cruelty — because if this future is the only alternative, then this budget is painful but necessary medicine.
But it’s not. Ryan’s nightmare scenario isn’t likely even in the absence of new policy. A reasonable assumption of future debt is about 112 percent of GDP come 2037 — and that’s assuming the repeal of the sequester. That’s too high for comfort, and there’s some evidence that debt at that level could harm the economy. But there’s no evidence that it would create the kind of Mad Max-style scenario Ryan paints.
Ryan’s GOP budget takes a meat ax to the social safety net for the old, poor, and infirm, all the while sparing the military/medical/prison/financial industrial complex or any other corporate interest group from any sacrifice whatsoever. Ryan ignores deficit expanding tax expenditures that overwhelmingly favor the wealthy, which in 2009 cost the federal government a cool trillion; says nothing about eliminating tens of billions of dollars in direct taxpayer subsidies to hugely profitable industries like the oil companies and Big Ag, many of whom don’t even pay any income tax thanks to lobbyist provided loopholes; and lowers tax rates across the board, which again, overwhelmingly favors the rich.
Daily Kos diarist Jon Perr summarizes Ryan’s Randian budget:
1. Two Million Jobs Lost in 2014 Alone
2. $5.7 Trillion Tax Cut, Mostly for the Wealthy
3. Zero Tax Breaks Ended
4. Tax Hikes for the Middle Class
5. Medicare Rationing Boosts Annual Premiums for Seniors by $2,200 in 2030
6. 38 Million More Uninsured
7. Slashing Medicare and Medicaid Benefits, But Keeping the Tax Revenue
8. Non-Defense Discretionary Spending at Lowest Level in Decades
9. Two Trillion Dollar Flip-Flop on Defense Spending
So who’s left to close the difference between expenditures and revenues? The shrinking middle class and the working poor— of course, in the form of reduced government services that have historically done so much to insure social mobility for individuals and families wanting to improve their lot in life. You know, the lazy 47%, The Takers who just want free stuff from The Makers; or as Ayn Rand called them, The Moochers and The Producers. With a record number 40 million families now living at the poverty line, that’s a lot of moochers to provide for. Or we could just create some decent paying jobs for them, like FDR did during the Great Depression. But since repealing the New Deal is conservatism’s raison d’etre, that ain’t gonna happen, not on their watch.
The conservative strategy of starving the beast of government is in full sway, to make it small enough small enough to drown it in a bathtub as Grover Norquist is fond of saying. Thanks to the huge shit sandwich the Bush Administration handed Obama, aka, The Great Recession, the percentage of income taxes to GDP is the lowest it’s been since 1950 (15.5%), 13.5% less than it was under George Junior (17.6%).
Lowering tax revenues eventually puts a ceiling on discretionary government spending (as John Kenneth Galbrraith warned President Kennedy after Kennedy proposed a large reduction in personal and corporate income taxes). We already seeing how this is playing out in the so-call $85 billion sequestor, which may well become a permanent feature in the government’s budget as it continues to be run on a gridlocked, continuing resolution basis. Recall that the sequestor was the bastard off-spring of the Rethugs’ successful hostage taking ploy, in which it held a gun to the head of the US economy and its credit rating by refusing to pay bills that it had already accrued. John Boehner even bragged that he got 98% of what he wanted when the sequestor was first agreed.
Kicking the can down the road suits the deficit hawks just fine because it creates a continuing atmosphere of crisis they believe gives them leverage over the Dems, not only on fiscal matters but by occupying the legislative docket, hamstringing other government business as well. Which really is the whole point of Ryan’s ludicrous “balanced budget” proposal, that among other things, refuses to identify a single loophole for elimination despite promising $5.8 trillion in loophole cuts; and putting off for 10 years any cuts in Medicare, apparently to keep current seniors off their backs.
Ryan’s GOP budget doesn’t even make economic sense. It is utter stupidity to starve the country’s economic engine of fuel by drastically cutting government spending during an economic downturn, especially when corporations are sitting on record profits and won’t invest them (that is, until they get their promised tax cuts). During a time of record low interest rates, when the rest of the world is practically throwing money at us, this is the time to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure on the cheap, which is not only an investment in the future but would provide millions of desperately needed high paying jobs that would further stimulate the economy and pour hundreds of billions of dollars more in tax revenues into the US treasury.
As for making a fetish out of a balanced budget, just ask the Europeans how that whole austerity thing is working out for them, especially Britain, which is entering a triple dip recession; and Spain and Italy where unemployment is over 26%, equal to the rate that the US experienced during the Great Depression.
No, Ryan’s is not a serious economic proposal, but an example of what the Newtster famously called “right wing engineering.” (I prefer to characterize it as an ideological jihad disguised as a budget.) One need only review Ryan’s voting record to conclude he doesn’t give a damn about deficits, except as it prospers the 1%. This vaunted Avatar of Austerity, this deficit hawk extraordinaire, is considered by the Village People to be the very embodiment of a VSP- a Very Serious Person (the quantitative measure of which, according to Paul Krugman, is the amount of pain that the elite are willing to inflict on the poor).
Ryan has done as much as anyone to add trillions of dollars to the national debt by voting for, among other things, TARP, a quintessential government bailout; two unfunded wars: Afghanistan, which has cost nearly a half tril to date, and Iraq, which according to a new study by Brown University, has already cost $2.2 tril, and perhaps as much as $4 tril by 2053; two unfunded Bush era tax cuts; and the unfunded Medicare Part D, a healthy return on investment by the medical industrial complex. All were financed without offsets, i.e. with borrowed money, meaning the interest incurred will to roll over into each succeeding year’s budget deficit. Notwithstanding, the Obama Administration has succeeded in reducing the deficit every single year by hundreds of billions of dollars, a trend that is expected to continue throughout the next decade.
Recall hearing much about that in the Lame Stream Media? Didn’t think so.
Paul Ryan, author of Young Guns: New Generation of Conservative Leaders, supposedly understands the intricacies of US government budget arcana. Cutting to chase, he wants to save the social safety net by destroying it–block granting and privatizing federal assistance programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, turning them over to the tender mercies of Republican governors like Texas’ Rick Perry and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal. And where possible, to the “free marketeers” who fill their campaign coffers with cold hard cash.
This is all a huge scam, people. A classical propaganda disinformation black op designed to create a new, permanent plutocratic power elite to rival the John D. Rockerfellers, Averill Harrimans, and J.P.Morgans of the Gilded Age. Ryan is nothing more than what Marlan Brando’s character Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now described as “an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill.” A bill that they did so much to create and now don’t want to pay for.
As for the immediate future, by agreeing to the sequestor in 2011 and then not maximizing his leverage over the expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of 2012, President Obama can kiss any thoughts of a Grand Bargain goodbye. Why should the Rethugs agree to take the political heat for reducing popular earned benefits programs such as Medicare and Social Security, so-called “entitlement reform”, while simultaneously agreeing to raise taxes on their wealthy funding base? That’s a lose lose. They’ve already got some $ 2.3 trillion in budget cuts since 2011 in exchange for only $630 billion in additional revenues—nearly a four to one spending cut/revenue ratio. Compare that to Obama’s proposed one to one ratio and Simpson-Bowles’ two to one.
They can now go home (where they spend most of their time, anyway), and do what they do best—raise money. And when they do actually show up for work in D.C., obstruct. They simply have no reason to compromise on anything budget related, especially since the deficit continues to shrink under legislation Obama has already signed off on. Secure in their newly gerrymandered districts, they’ll gladly accept lousy poll numbers in exchange for progress in drowning The Beast.
The only question remaining is just how much damage the party’s two warring wings will inflict upon itself. A hint lies in the release Monday of its 97 page autopsy of their 2012 election failures titled The Growth and Opportunity Report. Politiico sums up the GOP’s conservaschism dilemma:
The GOP’s prescription to cure the ills that helped bring on yet another disastrous presidential cycle would revamp its presidential nominating rules in ways to benefit well-funded candidates and hamper insurgents – a move that quickly heated up the already smoldering feud between the Republican establishment and the tea party-inspired base.
Pass the gasoline.