March 12, 2010 Leave a comment
Absolutely terrific post from Jon Chait yesterday. You should read it in its entirety. But, because you're already here, I'm going to excerpt the part that I think is spot-on and so important. As you may have noticed, the Republicans version of a Congressional Intellectual (he actually sort-of knows what he's talking about and is not wildly, only modestly, loose with facts), Paul Ryan has released a long-term budget plan designed to balance the budget well into the future. It mostly does this through dismantling Medicare in such a way that the government spends less on health care and Americans get a lot less health care. Alas, it doesn't balance the budget because his tax plan– cut taxes for the very rich, raise them for everyone else– is a sham. Chait nicely dissects it. After all that, here's the essential summary:
The basic thrust of liberal public policy over the last century is
to keep in places the market system but use government to slightly
mitigate against risk–the risk of getting sick, the risk of outliving
your savings, the risk that you just won't make much money in the first
place. The downside of these policies is that, in order to mitigate the
downside risk, you also have to mitigate the upside benefit. If you're
unusually rich, you have to pay a somewhat higher tax rate than most
people. If you're unusually healthy, you have to subsidize medical care
for people who aren't. If you were able to invest well enough to cover
your entire retirement, some of your good fortune will be siphoned off
to those who weren't. The rewards for getting rich, or merely being
born rich, will remain enormous, just slightly less so than in a
completely free market.
Republicans want to eliminate these mitigations of risk. Ryan would
retain some bare-bones subsidies for the poorest, but the overwhelming
thrust in every way is to liberate the lucky and successful to enjoy
their good fortune without burdening them with any responsibility for
the welfare of their fellow citizens. This is the core of Ryan's moral philosophy…
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.
Exactly. A fair reading makes it hard to argue for anything but what Chait has laid out above.