By Joe Campbell
April 18th, 2011
Paul Ryan launched an attack on Barack Obama’s deficit speech last week — calling it “excessively partisan.”
Which is interesting considering his own approach to the budget deficit which he called “an existential threat to all we hold dear”: Balance the budget without offending a single Republican.
Over a year ago, I described the conundrum Republicans faced as the deficit they were fuming against was largely a result of policies that benefited their own constituencies. Those over 55 who were the only demographic group to vote Republican (even in the Democratic wave years of 2006 and 2008) benefited the most from the trillion dollars spend on Medicare and Social Security. Our military spending nearly matched the rest of the world’s combined — and if you include other national security spending — totaling another trillion. And then there were the various tax incentives and loopholes for big corporations adding up to another few hundred billion dollars. Further, Republicans were committed to not raising taxes on anyone — especially the richest.
Paul Ryan was faced with the unenviable task of squaring this circle. In an effort that nearly everyone described as “serious,” Ryan managed to put forth a plan with no prospect of passing at all — and one that managed to place the entire burden of balancing the budget on the backs of Democratic constituencies. The military was left alone. The base of the Republican party and driver of most of the debt — the elderly — was left alone. Corporations were rewarded with a lower tax rate with some vague talk of eliminating their enormous tax subsidies.
Though Ryan kept saying the pain of balancing the budget would be shared by everyone — his plan was really about cutting off support for those left behind in our society. The rich and elderly were rewarded — even as they accumulate more and more of the nation’s wealth; the middle class were mainly left alone; and the young and the poor were cut off.
That doesn’t sound like the path to a dynamic and prosperous society to me.
Paul Ryan’s future is one where my generation must be prepared to support our parents as they become the test subjects in the biggest social experiment in history: As Medicare becomes a voucher program growing at much lower than the rate of health care inflation, in the hopes that this will slow it down. Meanwhile, my generation must be saving more than any generation in history as we prepare to pay for our own medical costs.
Ryan’s plan is many things: If taken seriously, it is an attack on all non-Republican constituencies. If implemented, it would be a grand ideological experiment that barely considers the lives of those it would affect which Republicans would normally call “social engineering.”
But most of all, the Ryan plan is (as Slate‘s John Dickerson said in Friday’s Political Gabfest), a “bold negotiating position.”
[Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore licensed under Creative Commons.]