Home > Uncategorized > Ryan, deficits and hypocrisy

Ryan, deficits and hypocrisy

from Peter Radford

Paul Ryan is leaving Congress. Before he had finished announcing his upcoming retirement the airwaves were awash with commentary about his legacy.

Count me as one of those who have a particularly strong perspective on this. Paul Ryan was, and presumably still is, a supremely hypocritical human being.

Recall how he sprang into public consciousness. He quickly established himself as a severe right winger, but one with the smarts to back it all up. He promoted himself as a thoughtful conservative. He quoted all the thinkers one has to refer to if one is to be such a person. Ayn Rand was his go-to intellectual foundational source.

He spoke eloquently about the damage that Federal deficits would do. He berated Democrats, and Obama especially, for their wanton reliance on debt to pay for rescuing the economy in the aftermath of the Great Recession. His mantra was that if we would only set taxpayers free, if we would only slash social spending, and if we would only see the sense in balancing our budget then America would enter a new golden age.

Well, a golden age for the wealthy at any rate.

He was, and presumably still is, one of those far right conservatives who honestly believe that cutting away the social safety net from underneath our fellow citizens will somehow lead to their discovery of endless vitality, determination, and virtue sufficient to lift them free of poverty, sickness, or age whichever of which is the cause of their reliance on that safety net. 

There is nothing new, of course, in this right wing narrative, it has been the core of conservative opposition to social spending for over a century. In a perverse twist of history the notion that a person ensnared in the net of big government is a soul lost to the march of freedom has moved from being a liberal rallying cry — as it was in the heyday of pure liberalism in the late 1800’s — to that of the far right. Ryan personifies this antediluvian approach today.

I am not going to litigate the pro and cons of safety nets here, besides you can tell what I think in that regard: I want to keep the focus on Ryan.

Nothing more personifies his hypocrisy than his meager legislative record.

His biggest accomplishment, one of which he spoke at length, is the recent tax cut passed late last year. The problem that Ryan has is that this so-called accomplishment will blow a massive hole in the budget. Prima facie it is a negation of his entire political career.

Let’s set aside the discussion over budget deficits and their relevance, let’s just take Ryan at his word.

He believes, so he has said repeatedly, that the federal government needs to avoid deficits. He has spoken about deficits in the darkest and most severe terms. He has lashed out at any politician who he can accuse of “running up the deficit”. His entire career was built around this core message.

And yet here we are with Ryan proclaiming that his personal triumph is the tax cut that will, according to the Congressional Budget Office,  run up that self-same deficit with historic speed and severity.

The starkness of Ryan’s hypocrisy is so sharp and so startling that it almost shocks us into disbelief. Perhaps we misunderstood him all those years. Perhaps all that supposed wonkish posturing was so convoluted that we missed Ryan’s message. Maybe were were wrong. We must have been because no one could possibly be this brazen about their hypocrisy.

Surely not.

No. We undertook him perfectly well. What we misunderstood was his honesty. He simply lied. He lied constantly. His presentations and protestations were a sham. He never once meant what he said.

His goal was, to use a phrase he wore out in his criticism of others, to bankrupt America. He was a true son and heir of the far right’s intention to “starve the beast”.

That refrain, as we all remember, was the battle song of the far right’s rise throughout the 1990’s. It formed the core rationale for Bush’s tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. It formed the basis for the opposition to anything Obama tried to do. It damn near undid the efforts to revitalize the economy in the aftermath of the last recession. Create a budgetary crisis by cutting taxes to the bone and then, in view of that crisis and using it as  justification for action, slash social spending. That was the plan. It was never based on budgetary conservatism. It was based on virulently anti-social opposition to government.

Ryan, and the far right he led to victory, took Lenin’s dictum one step further. It was not a case of “burning the village to save the village”, it was  case of burning the village to justify its destruction. As in: “see we can’t afford villages”.

And, in case you think I am being harsh, let me present exhibit “A”:

Today, in the House of Representatives, a motion to enforce balanced budgets on the Federal government is being brought up for a vote.

Think about that in the context of what I just said.

The Republicans, fresh from undermining the fiscal stability of the budget, are now arguing we need to restore stability through balancing it.

And guess how they propose doing this?

By slashing social spending of course.

Thus is Ryan revealed. And along with him the entire Republican domestic agenda. Anti-social to its core. All in the name of liberty.

Those of us who believe in democracy have a more extensive view of liberty. Freedom from poverty and sickness are within our purview. So is freedom from the consequences of untrammeled capital.

But that’s for another day. Right now let’s be happy Ryan is on his way out.

  1. rjw
    April 13, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Spot on, I think. The lack of integrity of these people makes me want to retch.

  2. Econoclast
    April 13, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Paul Ryan stated that Social Security is “socialism”. His undergraduate education was financed, in part, by Social Security Survivor Benefits, an undergraduate experience that led him to his hero, Ayn Rand. Rand also believed that program is socialism. Until she needed some Social Security herself in her old age.

    I wonder if Ryan ever felt a micron of shame about these small hypocrisies. I doubt it. Although he practices a shame-based religion, creatures like Ryan have no sense of any form of responsibility or accountability.

    Future shame, for Paul Ryan, will be missing a 2-foot putt.

  3. April 14, 2018 at 12:41 am

    Ryan received survivor’s benefits from Social Security when his father died. He also received nearly $500K from the Koch Brothers. A hypocrite sees the speck in another’s eye without seeing the log in his own eye! The media should upend and embarrass Ryan, McConnell and Trump so they don’t appear in public again! Otherwise, we are left with Orwellian language and abstract morality, magic thinking and wishful thinking!

  4. April 17, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    In clinical work it’s called sociopath – a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience; unable to feel any sense of empathy or compassion for others. Serial killers are often sociopaths.

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