When Paul Ryan, Republican congressman representing, where else, Wisconsin, and Chairman of the House Budget Committee arrived at the podium today bringing greetings from distant worlds, he was not wearing that placental suit ensconcing Keanu Reeves when he landed in Central Park in the Day the Earth Stood Still. And while the Earth did not stand still this time, it probably got a little sleepy.
The gift for humanity Ryan was bearing, a document purporting to be a budget blueprint for 2012 and beyond, in reality, is a blueprint much more suited to 1712 instead. If you believe the last several centuries have witnessed a march of civilization bringing an increasing quality of life for many, more security and more prosperity and freedom as well, then this is not the budget blueprint for you I’m afraid. On the other hand, if you believe, seriously, that economies can only grow, contrary to all kinds of economic evidence and history, when a government is smaller than a breadbasket, and all the national wealth moves like evaporating water up into the clouds into the hands of those few wealthy and powerful living there, to be dispersed by them with wizardly wisdom and judiciousness, boy will you love Paul Ryan.
The document is sort of a defining manifesto of the new Republican Party and our current inscrutably regressive and Luddite conservatism, distilling as it does the respective economic visions of Ayn Rand, the Austrian school, Supply Side, Scrooge, your cousin Willie who gets way too excitable playing Monopoly, showing an unhealthy glee while forcing foreclosure on your houses and hotels, a touch of Tiger Blood for sure, and of course Henry Potter, the unlovable banker from It’s a Wonderful Life.
Indeed, Ryan’s budgetary “vision” is a nostalgic hybrid of old school European mercantilism and centuries-tested feudalism. Ryan is widely described by the Washington cognoscenti and Punditardacy as “serious,” which in their speak means he likely doesn’t yell too much, disfavors long rhetorical flights of partisanship, and spews out a lot of integers. What these brainiacs of political analysis seem never to even consider is that the person is simply quietly insane.
The key stroke of brilliance in this new right-wing vision of budgets is that you can make them really, small if you never actually collect revenue, especially from those who have the actual money. So you could make a real case for naming Ryan’s document the Blueprint for the Wealthy Keeping Most of Gross Domestic Product in Perpetuity with perhaps the subtitle, Though Who in Our Consumer-driven Economy can Afford Consumer Goods Without Money is a Masterpiece Mystery. One supposes those holding the loot will merely put the jobs, and find the consumers overseas: like NOW.
If you’re one of those pussies who likes driving on paved roads, having inspectors weed out the bulk of E. coli and radiation from your food, enjoy air traffic controllers guiding in your plane, get your feelings hurt when grandmas all over the land can’t afford food or medicine, or just plain have a soft spot for investment in public works, education, research and people, and an economy providing jobs and decent wages for the middle class while protecting them from swindlers and high rolling scammers as much as possible (also known perhaps by today’s conservatives as The Bad Old Days Under Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Clinton), this budget plan is not your cup of gruel.
There is a particular genius to Ryan’s plan for Medicare, which is that it makes the elderly actually feel young again, like their younger counterparts also lacking health insurance (this assumes that the section of the Affordable Care Act, the new health reform law mandating coverage for everyone in order to add the younger and healthier to the patient pool, will be stripped out by a conservative-chocked judiciary). The family that dies a preventable death from untreated diabetes together, stays together as the saying goes.
It’s a blueprint for the conservative paradise: scant public investment in infrastructure, research, and oversight, negligible taxes on the fattest wallets, while worker bees are spared the burden of the security provided by the Nanny State safety net, the obvious consequences ideally limited just to them; a high functioning economy generated by conservatives’ mythical cutthroat Darwinian competition rewarding the superior beings, and the rest doing their due diligence as modern day sharecroppers. If the Reagan economics of which today’s conservative economics is a more insidious mutation was labeled by Bush the First as Voodoo Economics, this new stuff is pharmaceutical grade Voodoo Powder.
No reason to bore anybody with the fine print about Medicaid block grants and Medicare voucher plans, since in the end, they’re just another way of saying “eviscerated safety net,” truly the stuff of which conservative dreams are made.
Ryan and his blueprint bring the message that in the future conservative paradise on Earth, as out there on Planet Retrogradius in the M32 Galaxy, life will be very, very sweet. If you believe them.