Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Path to Prosperity?

As you may know, Representative Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, has released the Republican party's "budget resolution" for fiscal year 2012 - a glossy helping of budgetary puff pastry grandly titled "The Path to Prosperity." You can read it here ... and you should.

The first thing I probably should say about this plan is the same thing the Washington Post said in a wonderful editorial yesterday: “The first thing to praise about House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan, unveiled Tuesday, is that it exists. The Wisconsin Republican has produced a plan to deal with the debt, which is more than his Democratic colleagues or President Obama can say.”

Yes, Dear Readers, this is the beauty of the Republicans - they can always be counted on produce a plan. It may be empty and unworkable, but they can produce a plan. The Democrats, while they may have better (or, at least, competitive) ideas, couldn't produce an actual plan if their lives depended on it. And while the Republicans are certainly able to produce a great plan for the next fiscal year, they certainly haven't done much to deliver a budget for the government to operate in the current fiscal year ... which is now half over.

The Path to Prosperity. It looks good. But once you read it, you realize it's a path that in the long run won't be paved, won't be lit, won't have helpful directional signs, and won't be repaired when it has potholes. Here are a few of my observations on Representative Ryan's plan:

1. The constant, drumbeat message it delivers is that the federal budget crisis is either the fault of the Democrats, or of Congress writ large ... you will search in vain for the least hint of any acceptance of Republican complicity or shared responsibility.

2. The overall tone of the document, as evidenced by its and choice of terms and modifiers, is insulting and extremely partisan: the term "job-destroying" is frequently used when referring to any tax applied to businesses; and government workers are not civil servants, but federal bureaucrats whose sole function is to stand in the way of progress and good government.

3. The plan is 73 pages long, but the first actual proposal doesn't appear until page 23, following extensive castigation of the current administration and a very partisan review of the history. And the first proposal indicates that the Defense budget won't be cut. Now, I agree that it would be irresponsible to ruthlessly cut the defense budget while we're in the middle of two wars; however, it's equally irresponsible to give it a free pass. One might begin to reform defense spending by controlling the ability of members of congress to force spending the Defense Department doesn't want.

4. The plan repeatedly rails about "out of control spending" and "government bureaucracy," but doesn't mention that it's - ta, da! - Congress that organizes and funds that bureaucracy.

5. On page 30 of the plan, all blame for the current budget impasse is laid squarely on "Senate Democrats," but no mention is made of the escalating demands of the Tea Party and extreme Republican freshmen who publicly refuse any compromise and appear focused on shutting down the government to make their points.

6. Oh, and on page 31: what is an "anti-fraud account"?

I could go on, but I'm too angry.

I encourage you to read both the Republican plan, and the review prepared by the Congressional Budget Office. You should also read the fact-check performed by the Washington Post.

And if you really want to get angry about the whole federal budget situation, read this book - Who Will Tell the People - The Betrayal of American Democracy, by William Greider. It was first published in 1992, and is a devastating critique of how greed and mendacity on the part of Congress, special interests, and wealthy, well-connected elites have conspired to shut Real People out of the business of government and transfer the tax burden away from business and the wealthy to the middle and lower classes. When the book was written, the crisis du jour was the collapse of the savings and loan industry (remember that?) ... but every word applies to the gutting of the economy and the ruthless fleecing of ordinary Americans that goes on today.

If you're not furious now, you will be when you're done reading that book. And you don't have to read the whole thing ... the Introduction is a great summary.

Read, study, and get angry.

There's not much else you can do.

Have a good day. Demand more of your elected representatives, but expect less.

More thoughts tomorrow.



KathyA said...

OY! :(

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Anyone want to join me in singing O Canada?

Mike said...

I unfortunately don't expect anything.