Katrina Vanden Heuvel: Taking Paul Ryan Seriously Is Dangerous


After the release of Paul Ryan's new budget -- which looked a whole lot like his old budget -- despite the fact that the public rejected their policies when he and Mitt Romney lost the last election -- the panel members on MSNBC's Now with Alex Wagner this Tuesday were asked to weigh in on Ryan's proposal and this latest round of budget negotiations.

There were a lot of good points made about Ryan's ridiculous op-ed in The Wall Street Journal and the fact that he just wants to go after programs that help the poor, the elderly and the most vulnerable in our society and that his "budget" has a lot of numbers that don't add up. Ari Melber then made this point on how Ryan is regarded in political circles:

MELBER: I think Joy is hitting on something really important, which is those are the twin falsehoods, even apart from the hypocrisy of his record. One is, that just because it has numbers in it, doesn't make it a budget, right? My lottery ticket is not a budget. It's just a bunch of numbers on the page. And this thing [...] has a lot of numbers and as everyone has said, doesn't add up. It's more like fan fiction for Ayn Rand than it is a budget. And he's not a deficit hawk. To Joy's point, he's a health care hawk. He is interested in going after every health care program that's basically on the books from Obamacare, as you just articulated, to Medicaid, the program that is the most important for poor people, who need help and also for our society, because when we use medicine, preventative care for poor people, it actually saves all of us money, so it's good on both moral and efficiency terms and that's what's so frustrating here. I think Washington has called him serious for so long, they're over invested in treating this fake charade like it's a budget.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel followed up very nicely on Melber's points just a little bit later in the segment.

VANDEN HEUVEL: You know Ezra, I mean, he, Paul Ryan is no apostle of fiscal rectitude. He wants to starve the possibility of an empathetic engaged government in the lives of the most vulnerable people in this country. I do come back to what Ari said, because even, with all due respect to Ezra, you're hearing Paul Ryan and who is cruel and clueless and this is a la la land fantasy budget proposal being treated seriously by someone like Ezra Klein, who is treated seriously inside the Beltway.

For too long in these last years, inside the Beltway has had a fixation and an obsession with the deficit. We now see a deficit dwindling, yet we are treating Paul Ryan, a little less seriously because of the results of the election, but the danger is that Paul Ryan bringing this out is going to shift the playing field, so that it moves even further to the right, so that the possibility of a real discussion that is treated seriously by those inside the Beltway, of investment, in the short term, when private corporations aren't spending, when there's no demand, government must play a role. That is off the radar in fundamental ways that is dangerous to the health and security of this nation.

Amen to that. Ezra Klein responded a bit later and said we're forced to take Ryan seriously because he's head of the budget committee. I agree we're forced to deal with him, but that doesn't mean he has to be lauded as one of the Very Serious people in Washington, or like he's got anyone's interests at heart other than the 1 percent.

Here's more from Charlie Pierce on Ryan and that proposal of his: What Is It About America He Doesn't Get?:

Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from Wisconsin and most recent first runner-up in the vice-presidential pageant, has released his latest "budget," which is only a budget in the same way that what the guy says to the pigeons in the park is a manifesto. It is constructed from the same magical thinking, the same conjuring words, the same elusive asterisks, and the same obvious obfuscations of its actual intent that Paul Ryan and his running mate put forward in the last campaign, in which they were so thoroughly rejected that Ryan couldn't even carry his home town. In fact, in this fiscal fantasia, the magical thinking, conjuring words, and obvious obfuscations are now run by us at 78 r.p.m. so as to balance the budget in 10 years rather than in 40. It is very doubtful that a country that declined to savage itself on a 30-year layaway plan is likely to agree to do so over a decade so as to get all the savaging done at once. What is it about elections that Paul Ryan doesn't understand?

What is it about America that he just doesn't get?

And that is the central pivot to Ryan's entire career, and certainly to his completely unwarranted stature as some kind of economic savant. Paul Ryan's economics are not economics so much as they are a statement of political philosophy. All political economics are based in political philosophy but, in Ryan's case, political philosophy is not the root of his notion of a political economy. His political philosophy is his notion of political economics. He believes that there are certain things that the government should not do for its citizens, and he would believe that if the balance showed a 20-gozillion surplus. His goal is to stop the government from doing those things. Everything else he does — every "budget" he proposes — is in service to that philosophy. His whole career has been made within the confines of that philosophy. It has blinded him to the very real human effects of what would occur if his "budget" ever was adopted, it also has blinded him to his own staggering hypocrisy — a man seeking to demolish the very safety net that got him through high-school and college, a man talking about the perils of government who's never had a real job outside of it. He is engaged in an extended act of camouflage through which he concocts disguises for policy preferences that the country has told him, over and over again, it does not want, and which the country has told him, over and over again, do not reflect the country's idea of itself. When he laughed at Paul Ryan in that debate, Joe Biden laughed for America. Read on....

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