Friday, March 12, 2010

Paul Ryan's Randian road map

Ever since the intrepid Howard Gleckman revealed that the Road Map for America's Future does not, in fact, balance the budget, there's been a great deal of well-deserved piling on. Paul Ryan's response to the critique, meanwhile, is anemic.

But one of the more interesting analyses is by Jonathan Chait, who puts the Road Map in historical-political context:

The roadmap clarifies the essence of the Republican Party's approach to domestic policy issues. The essence is opposition to the downward redistribution of income. The principle first emerged under Ronald Reagan, but only in fits and starts--Republican presidents agreed to a tax reform in 1986 and a deficit reduction in 1990 that did redistribute income from rich to poor. Over the last twenty years, though, opposition to downward redistribution has hardened into the sacred tenet of Republican policymaking. Ryan's plan both codifies this principle and shows just how far the party is willing to go in its service.

Every major element of Ryan's plan reflects this commitment. Begin with his proposed tax changes.

Why does Ryan roll this way? Blame it on Ayn:

The core of the Randian worldview, as absorbed by the modern GOP, is a belief that the natural market distribution of income is inherently moral, and the central struggle of politics is to free the successful from having the fruits of their superiority redistributed by looters and moochers. What's telling about Ryan's program is not so much that a hard-core ideologue like him would advocate it. It's that virtually the whole of the conservative movement has embraced him. ...

The rise of Ryan is a sign that the possibilities for bipartisan cooperation on domestic issues are, at the moment, essentially nil. This point is obscured by the figure of Ryan, a cheerful and courteous man who gives every sense of wanting to deal in good faith. But his goals, which are now fully the goals of the conservative movement and the Republican Party, are diametrically opposed to the liberal vision of capitalism shorn of its cruelest edges. His basic moral premises are foreign, even abhorrent, to liberals. He seems like a person you'd like to negotiate with, but there's nothing to negotiate over. Ryan is waging a zero sum fight over resources on behalf of the most fortunate members of society and against everybody else.

Ryan is better understood as an ideologue -- a great pol and a great marketer, to be sure, but first and foremost and ideologue -- than as a wonk.

NYT conservative columnist Ross Douthat attempts a response, failing utterly to take into account how the CBO notes that poor seniors get screwed in Ryan's plan to blow up Medicare.

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