Pretend Deficit Hawk Conservatives

Paul Ryan - Eddie MunsterI am fond of quoting Matt Yglesias about the Quaker budget hawks. In it, he compares Fix the Debt to a group of Quakers who claim to be for balancing the federal budget but who are against any proposals that don’t involve reducing military spending. You would have to say that the Quakers are just pacifists who are using the budget deficit as a ruse. And so it is with Fix the Debt: they don’t want to balance the budget; they want to cut entitlements and lower taxes.

But it isn’t just Fix the Debt. The entire conservative infrastructure is involved in this game. And no one is a better symbol of it than Paul Ryan with his new “plan” to balance the budget in ten years. Let’s just look at the extreme hypocrisy of his approach to the ACA (Obamacare). Ezra Klein explains, “Ryan’s version of repeal means getting rid of all the parts that spend money to give people health insurance but keeping the tax increases and the Medicare cuts that pays for that health insurance, as without those policies, it is very, very difficult for Ryan to hit his deficit-reduction targets.”

This is a strange kind of conservative thinking. When it is to their advantage, they talk up incentives. We couldn’t, for example, bail out underwater homeowners because that would create a moral hazard. We are told that incentives matter. Yet when it comes to Ryan’s new budget, the assumption is that the people won’t mind if new taxes, which were levied to pay for a new program, stick around while the program itself goes away. If this were true, we could balance the budget by killing Social Security and Medicare but leaving the payroll tax in place. That, my friends, is exactly what Ryan is doing with his new budget.

It is no secret what Paul Ryan and the rest of the conservatives are all about. Eugene Robinson puts it bluntly, “If Rep. Paul Ryan wants people to take his budget manifestos seriously, he should be honest about his ambition: not so much to make the federal government fiscally sustainable as to make it smaller.” Of course, that isn’t the whole story: they want to reduce the size of government when it comes to spending on the poor; when it comes to the rich, they want to spend ever more. Remember: what diferentiates Democrats and Republicans is what they want to spend money on, not how much they want to spend.

In an article this morning, Ezra Klein sums up Ryan’s budget in three sentences:

He cuts deep into spending on health care for the poor and some combination of education, infrastructure, research, public-safety, and low-income programs. The Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts remain, but the military is spared, as is Social Security. There’s a vague individual tax reform plan that leaves only two tax brackets—10 percent and 25 percent—and will require either huge, deficit-busting tax cuts or increasing taxes on poor and middle-class households, as well as a vague corporate tax reform plan that lowers the rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

Is that clear? Basically, it comes down to this: cut programs for the poorer classes, raise taxes on the poorer classes, and lower taxes on the rich. There are many ways to create a budget. Ryan and the conservatives choose to do it in a way that almost everyone would agree is morally upside down.

I still love the pretend deficit hawk Quakers because their hearts are in the right place; they are trying to shrink the war machine. But the pretend deficit hawk conservatives are another thing altogether. They want to take from the poor and give to the rich. And that’s just immoral.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Pretend Deficit Hawk Conservatives

  1. I remember vividly a moment at the end of the 2008 vice-presidential debate. Sarah Palin had behaved monstrously, telling lie after lie (in some countries what she said would be grounds for a libel case.) As the debate ended, she nervously reached out to shake Joe Biden’s hand. Biden, naturally, took it and flashed his professional-pol grin. And Palin’s countenance exploded in joy.

    It’s the kind of joy I’ve seen before – the face of a malignant schoolteacher or landlord, the face of a company goon whose sole mission in life is getting rid of you because you stood up to the company. And who’s protected. They can behave like savage shits and the people they’re abusing can’t.

    In the end, this is what right-wingers want. Forget their nonsense about “freedom.” I’m free to walk up to a perfect stranger and spit on his shoes. That stranger will then probably get really, really mad, and make me regret spitting on his shoes. What right-wingers want is protection – they want to act like sociopaths and have this behavior sanctioned by law and social norms, so that there will be no natural consequences.

    You can see this on Paul Ryan’s face. He knows what he stands for is utterly malicious. He’s got that fake-regretful expression which screams, “you are in violation of Code 16.3 of our Terms Of Agreement,” while behind the mask he’s grinning down to his skull. For some people – I don’t understand why – this is a compulsion. It must have a diminishing emotional reward, because they feel the need to do it over and over.

    Most people with right-wing views do not act in this fashion. They are reasonably sane members of society. But, should the opportunity and the desire arise, they want the power to act in this fashion and get away with it. I’m sure some liberals suffer from the same dementia. But they don’t, as a rule, venerate such behavior. They’d prefer to make it impossible for you to spit on someone’s shoes without that person getting justifiably cranky in return.

    What’s the one constant you will see, every time, after someone’s been engaged in an argument or fight? That person will, inevitably, justify their actions to anyone willing to listen. We know when we’ve behaved badly towards others (and most of us feel pretty awful about it even if that behavior was pure self-defense.) Right-wingers are attempting nothing less than to redefine human nature, to let aggressors feel better than victims. It’s the reason they defend rape and racism and every form of pollution; it’s why they have taken so well to the virtual immunity of vitriolic online comments or call-in programs. It’s why they worship Ayn Rand. It’s what makes a CEO not merely act like a feudal lord, but claim he’s a human benefactor in doing so. And always, always, always scream in outrage when anyone reacts to their spitting on shoes.

  2. @JMF – So what you are saying is that the Democrats create an ethical framework in which the Republicans can misbehave. This is the same as fundamentalist religions using liberal democracy to get into power so that they can destroy the liberal democracy. It is also why I call the Republicans a revolutionary party. Usually, what binds a society together is not laws–it is norms. Republicans have been ignoring norms since the start of the Reagan administration. It is terrible.

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