RYAN'S DOPE: Austerity will save the poor. Oh, really? | WisCommunity

RYAN'S DOPE: Austerity will save the poor. Oh, really?

London's Daily Mail [URL below] is out with a story detailing increasing American poverty, caused by declining wages, aggravated by the Great Recession and budget cuts that already have curtailed social safety net programs. After explaining why 20 percent of all American children are now officially poor, a level not seen since the 1960s, The Mail's reporter went to the chief architect of further budget cutting, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), chair of the House Budget Committee.

The GOP's newest, again mostly rhetorical, budget proposal -- authored by Ryan -- makes drastic cuts in social safety net programs like Medicare and Medicaid and whacks other support programs. Ryan told The Mail that austerity is necessary to shrink the national debt. Never mind that austerity in Europe has resulted in galloping unemployment and weakening economies. Europe's experience presages what would happen here if we go to what amounts to super-sequestration -- even while Ryan's crazily unfair scheme cuts taxes some more on America's rich.

Under The Mail's photos of American inner-city kids playing hoops against the backdrop of totally boarded up apartment buildings (American homelessness is on the rise while funds to deal with are on the decline), Ryan turned reality on its ear, arguing that without austerity "we have a debt crisis like Europe has."

Uh, no. We don't have a debt crisis at all. The US borrowed more heavily to finance World War II, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it borrows today, and yet experienced a golden age afterward. Federal revenues continue to lag because incomes are down while corporations the rich pay relatively little, thanks to loopholes. Get incomes back up and what deficits we do have will diminish back to historically ordinary levels.

But with the private sector resisting investment, how does that happen? It happens, as most economists agree, when the government steps in as the investor of last resort and kick-starts the economy. And, ideally, raises the minimum wage and in other ways gives its many struggling citizens a hand up instead of a backhanded slap in the face.

Instead: Clueless, heartless jerks like Ryan persist in pursuing even more of the draconian government austerity we already experience, a government profile where for years now local, state and federal public employees have been furloughed, never get raises and often get pay cuts, just like many workers in the private sector.

In short, we do have austerity; a lot of it. Ryan just wants more, so he and his pals can keep on pointing to "failed" government while rewarding his fat-cat campaign supporters. You know, the fat cats whom Ryan pretends will, uncharactertistically, step in to save us all, if only we give them more of our money. 

Ryan consequently persists at playing Fearmonger in Chief, telling The Mail that if we don't slash federal spending even more than we have, why then:

"That means seniors lose their health care benefit, that means the people in the safety net see the net cut and they go in the street. That means you have a recession. These are the things we prevent from happening by balancing the budget. Balancing the budget is but a means to an end. It's growing the economy, it's creating opportunity, it's getting government to live within its means."

But, of course, we have all those bad effects already, with austerity. Modern-era federal spending is at a near-record low, relative to the size of the economy. Ryan's budgeteering ignores that, makes huge, unsupported assumptions and once again fails to identify many specific budget cuts that would be necessary, or gains in revenue other than the disproved Reaganomics fantasy that they'll increase if we cut taxes. If that were true, then George W. Bush's huge tax cuts would have balanced the budget.

As if -- in the final analysis -- more austerity is even necessary. After all, a growing, robust economy spurred by public investment will, as history instructs, result in greater economic growth, diminishing the relative size of the deficit. Any American who has ever secured a home mortgage or borrowed for a car knows that borrowing sometimes makes good sense, especially when interest rates are low. And the US remains fundamentally able to fund Social Security and Medicare and pay down its debt over time. Except: The GOP wants more tax cuts!

So, to sum up Ryanism: In order to save health care, we have to cut spending on it. In order to save the social safety net, we have to dismantle it. In order to protect our kids, we have to stop investing so much in education, Head Start, the Earned Income Tax Credit and other federal programs that support the next generation. We'll also have to cut programs that protect the well-being and dignity of deserving seniors and the disabled. And so on and so on. But actually, we're not going to tell you all the details. Just focus on the terrible things we pretend will happen if you don't agree to let us do these terrible things. 

Paul Ryan is a cretin, a cynic, and a political opportunist. He is not, just based on the policies that emerge from his mouth, a serious person or a thinker. Even though pundits and too many inside the D.C. Beltway persist in believing otherwise. His Lightness wouldn't matter, except that being in a top power position he drives the GOP-controlled House and its antidiluvean fiscal policies, resulting in the current political stalemate and austerity posture that are wrecking the country, one citizen at a time.

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April 3, 2013 - 11:11am