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Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012

Not Such a Bright Light

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Only in the narrow, dimly lighted minds of those in control of today's Republican Party would Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan be considered some kind of shining intellectual.

Most of the superficial characterizations of Ryan as Republican Mitt Romney's vice presidential choice did serious damage to conventional English language usage.

Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, we were told, is someone who is not afraid to take risks and propose bold reforms of government programs.

Within today's right-wing, extremist Republican Party, what in the world is bold or risky about proposing to slash government spending that benefits the middle class and those in need in order to give even more eye-popping tax cuts to the wealthiest people in America?

That's hardly a controversial stand among Republicans. The wider the income gap between the super-rich and everybody else, the happier they are. The Koch brothers might even invite them over for dinner.

Or how about Ryan as the source of fresh, new ideas within the Republican Party?

Ryan's most startling ideas, to begin dismantling Social Security and Medicare, are more than 75 and 45 years old, respectively. Republicans have tried to end those popular, successful programs ever since they began under Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson in 1935 and 1965.

Younger voters should fight repeal just as passionately as older voters, since everyone eventually becomes an older voter.

It's not because Ryan represented any new ideas that The Wall Street Journal and others on the right who don't very much like Romney eagerly lobbied for Ryan.

It's because Ryan is a young, good-looking politician who's much better than Romney at looking right into a TV camera and pretending the most vicious and socially repugnant ideas of the extreme right aren't really chicken droppings, but rather a nutritious chicken salad.

Economists Aren't Fooled

Voters may be surprised to learn Ryan has no background in economics from any of those prestigious Ivy League universities that usually provide candidates at this level.

Ryan has only a bachelor's degree from a small college in Ohio. But he's learned to use lots of charts no one understands while explaining the federal budget. People's eyes glaze over, but they get the mistaken impression he knows what he's talking about.

Legitimate economists aren't fooled. Paul Krugman, the Nobel-Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist, calls Ryan a flimflam man. Krugman rejects Ryan's self-adopted image as a policy wonk. “He's a hard-core conservative, with a voting record as far right as Michele Bachmann's, who has shown no competence at all on the numbers thing.”

Romney's selection has made Ryan's mean-spirited and economically reckless House Republican budget the centerpiece of the 2012 campaign.

Here's a modest assessment of the Ryan budget by Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

“It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation's history).”

Most of the media failed to tell the country just how radical and destructive Ryan's budget was. It should have been a national scandal when House Republicans passed it.

The media's lame excuse was that Ryan's budget was never going to pass the U.S. Senate anyway. But now Romney and Ryan are ready to try to sell the same snake oil in a presidential election.

The media has a duty to tell us when politicians are lying to us. We're not talking about the tortured hair-splitting of PolitiFact, which concentrates on blades of rhetorical grass while ignoring Giant Redwood Lies.

Ryan's budget and almost everything he says publicly are rooted in one very big lie. Ryan maintains that his draconian cuts to programs protecting America's middle class and providing a lifeline for the poor are necessary to prevent an impending economic apocalypse about to be caused by our national debt.

How do we know that's a lie? Because Ryan's enormous gutting of government services does absolutely nothing to reduce that national debt.

In fact, Ryan would actually add $3.1 trillion to the national debt over 10 years. Instead of using enormous cuts in necessary benefits to working people and vulnerable single mothers and children to lower the national debt, Ryan's budget would brazenly pass out those trillions of dollars in more large tax cuts for the richest people in America.

From sketchy financial disclosures politicians submit, we know Ryan, who married into money, has assets of $2.1 million to $7.8 million. That's chicken feed, of course, compared to Romney's estimated quarter of a billion dollars.

Still, a presidential ticket of multimillionaires in a nation painfully recovering from the second-worst economic crisis in history really ought to run on something benefiting all Americans, not just bigger tax cuts for themselves and their fellow millionaires and billionaires.