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Kanook – Aug 2010

One real life fact staring all of us in the face, daily, is the media’s presentation of American
policy as they see it, add to this the new aspect of “instant news” that allows both side of the aisle
to push grandiose plans of action packed rhetoric that has both the liberals and conservatives
marching down the highways and byways or the United States, attempting to slice each other
tires.
One such individual is the Republican Representative Paul Davis Ryan, Jr., a 40 ½ year old, 5 th
generation Wisconsin serving his 6th term in the House, who has been ranked in some circles as
the 9th most influential United States Conservative. This Mr. Ryan is telling the world he can
solve the United States fiscal quagmire with a plan that involves cutting spending and slashing
taxes, not a novel idea but since it is rolling from his flapping gums he is believed to be an
innovative thinker by those who still oppose the Democratic Party walking tall around the
Potomac. It stands to reason, in this political merry-go-round that if it was the Republican
walking tall the Democrats would find some idiot in their party to reduce spending and slash
taxes, it goes with the job of being a politician.
It is important that all of us remember that power fears truth above all things, more than bullets,
more than bombs and more than death itself, because truth can destroy powerful men even as they
lie in their graves. We all understand that our government does not rule by violence, and that to
appear legitimate it must have the backing of at least 1/3rd of its population, whereas this is
possible when the remaining 2/3rds are fractured and quarreling – ideally a government searches
and seeks a majority compliance, a goal that is impossible over the long term.
A politician is a complex animal of our species, whereas they are severely attuned to the fact
that their power-base depends on effective information dispersing machine, one that retains
professionals, historians, publishers, news reporters, teachers, individuals that can withstand the
rigmarole of intensive campaigns and elections. Their political machinery

. Public rituals to make the
commoners feel they are a part of things. Hold your breath and refrain
from moving.” “We learned to wage information war. We developed
methods of infiltrating and
subverting key information institutions in a society—the news media,
yes, but also the long-term
indoctrination structures of education and religion. We learned to
exploit a culture’s myths,
because myths are easier to manipulate than facts. Let’s have a look
at the little beast. You can
sit up now.” “It’s an old problem, you see. We ran these

One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media
establishment to charlatans. You might have thought, given past experience, that D.C.
insiders would be on their guard against conservatives with grandiose plans. But no: as
long as someone on the right claims to have bold new proposals, he’s hailed as an
innovative thinker. And nobody checks his arithmetic.

Which brings me to the innovative thinker du jour: Representative Paul Ryan of
Wisconsin.

Mr. Ryan has become the Republican Party’s poster child for new ideas thanks to his
“Roadmap for America’s Future,” a plan for a major overhaul of federal spending and
taxes. News media coverage has been overwhelmingly favorable; on Monday, The
Washington Post put a glowing profile of Mr. Ryan on its front page, portraying him as
the G.O.P.’s fiscal conscience. He’s often described with phrases like “intellectually
audacious.”

But it’s the audacity of dopes. Mr. Ryan isn’t offering fresh food for thought; he’s
serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce.

Mr. Ryan’s plan calls for steep cuts in both spending and taxes. He’d have you believe
that the combined effect would be much lower budget deficits, and, according to that
Washington Post report, he speaks about deficits “in apocalyptic terms.” And The Post
also tells us that his plan would, indeed, sharply reduce the flow of red ink: “The
Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan would cut the
budget deficit in half by 2020.”

But the budget office has done no such thing. At Mr. Ryan’s request, it produced an
estimate of the budget effects of his proposed spending cuts — period. It didn’t address
the revenue losses from his tax cuts.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has, however, stepped into the breach. Its numbers
indicate that the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next
decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much
larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.
And that’s about the same as the budget office’s estimate of the 2020 deficit under the
Obama administration’s plans. That is, Mr. Ryan may speak about the deficit in
apocalyptic terms, but even if you believe that his proposed spending cuts are feasible —
which you shouldn’t — the Roadmap wouldn’t reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut
benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich.

And I do mean slash. The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on
the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan’s total
tax cuts. That’s not a misprint. Even as it slashed taxes at the top, the plan would raise
taxes for 95 percent of the population.

Finally, let’s talk about those spending cuts. In its first decade, most of the alleged
savings in the Ryan plan come from assuming zero dollar growth in domestic
discretionary spending, which includes everything from energy policy to education to the
court system. This would amount to a 25 percent cut once you adjust for inflation and
population growth. How would such a severe cut be achieved? What specific programs
would be slashed? Mr. Ryan doesn’t say.

After 2020, the main alleged saving would come from sharp cuts in Medicare, achieved
by dismantling Medicare as we know it, and instead giving seniors vouchers and telling
them to buy their own insurance. Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s the same plan
Newt Gingrich tried to sell in 1995.

And we already know, from experience with the Medicare Advantage program, that a
voucher system would have higher, not lower, costs than our current system. The only
way the Ryan plan could save money would be by making those vouchers too small to
pay for adequate coverage. Wealthy older Americans would be able to supplement their
vouchers, and get the care they need; everyone else would be out in the cold.

In practice, that probably wouldn’t happen: older Americans would be outraged — and
they vote. But this means that the supposed budget savings from the Ryan plan are a
sham.

So why have so many in Washington, especially in the news media, been taken in by this
flimflam? It’s not just inability to do the math, although that’s part of it. There’s also the
unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican
Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still
people in the G.O.P. making sense. And last but not least, there’s deference to power —
the G.O.P. is a resurgent political force, so one mustn’t point out that its intellectual
heroes have no clothes.

But they don’t. The Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate
over America’s fiscal future.