Philip Klein interviewed Paul Ryan at the Washington Examiner yesterday, Paul Ryan to GOP: Don’t Assume a Wave. Unfortunately, it’s in video form. But Jonathan Chait decided to take the week off from ranting about what a little dweeb Thomas Frank is and how opponents of education “reform” are big ol’ meanies who don’t care about the kids. This allowed him to write an actually interesting article with quotes, Paul Ryan Declares War Against Math. Go read the article if you are interested, it is rather good. But it isn’t surprising. Paul Ryan is a fraud and we have yet more evidence.
What I’m interested in is what Ryan had to say about the big bad budget crisis that is coming Any Day Now™. “The shame of it is, we just wasted eight years of knowing this crisis was coming, it’s the most predictable economic crisis we’ve ever had in this country, knowing about it, and not doing anything about it for eight years because of this presidency.” Wow. We’ve known about it since 2006, but it’s Obama’s fault. Bush was the guy who pushed the big tax cuts. Bush is the guy who provided the big give away to the pharmaceutical companies known as Medicare Part D. Obama actually cut costs with Obamacare, rolled back some of those tax cuts, and over all savaged the budget, which has been bad for the economy. He’s done what all the pretenders like Ryan claimed they wanted, but still Ryan says he has done nothing.
Of course, Ryan’s idea of dealing with the impending budget crisis that will now and forever more be here Any Day Now™, was to cut taxes. But this is nothing new. Paul Ryan is a hero of the Very Serious People, which means that he is by definition very unserious. But let’s look at his hysterical claim. “We’s just wasted eight years!” This is Social Security Paradox thinking: we must cut spending now or else we will have to cut spending later.
What’s really going on with Paul Ryan and the Serious crowd is that they are afraid that if we don’t cut spending right now, later the problem will be urgent enough that the people will call for tax increases. On the rich. The horror! But Paul Ryan would never say that. And anyway, his prescription has always been to cut taxes on the rich right now and savage social programs. So he isn’t even fine with the status quo of keeping taxes very low on the rich.
But the terrible thing is that if there really is an impending budget crisis that will happen Any Day Now™, we can fix it on that very day. We can cut spending on that day. We can raise taxes. It might be a bit painful but it would not be catastrophic. In fact, it would probably not be any worse than the last six years have been for the poor anyway. But there is an impending crisis that does not allow for quick fixes like the budget: global warming.
Ryan, of course, doesn’t care about climate change. It is hard to say where he is on the stages of global warming denial, because he bounces around. But that’s the point of the stages: you decide to deny doing anything about global warming and then you pick a reason. The more you know or the more your audience knows, the higher the stage you pick.
Doing something about global warming will take decades. The lifetime of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere is uncertain because of how much it cycles, but more recent estimates indicated about 50 years. The lifetime of methane is about 10 years. And the lifetime of nitrous oxide is about a hundred years. Of course, this isn’t the amount of time that it takes to remove these gases. This is the amount of time it takes to remove a molecule on average. Think of it as a half-life, but it is actually the amount of time it takes to remove somewhat more than half. Still, you can see: if we stopped putting carbon in the atmosphere today, the problem would be with us for decades to come. And it might cause changes that would stay with us for thousands of years.
Paul Ryan, like pretty much all Republicans who seem to shop at the same store for their suits and their ideologies, thinks that we absolutely must do something about the budget crisis that will happen Any Day Now™, even though we can easily address it. But global warming is a problem we can put off until things are catastrophic, even though there is really nothing we can do at that point but wait it out. This is modern American conservative thinking. And it is terrifying.