Thursday, April 21, 2011

No Explanation

The above polling reiterates what I wrote recently: everyone likes the idea of cutting spending until they find out how the teabaggRs plan to do it. And when you detail their plan for Medicare, it gets even more dramatic. People hate it, as well they should.

So, what's going on here? Given their brilliance at messaging, heretofore able to convince teabaggRs to vote against their own interests (not to mention those of their country) as easily as getting a penguin to laugh, have the Ryanophiles finally blown it? Did they completely misjudge the public? Are they that insulated from reality? I find it a very interesting and puzzling question, and I don't have an answer. It's right up there with the discordance that a pro-abortion atheist is the fountainhead and revered icon of their philosophy. It doesn't grok.

It's one thing to be serious about addressing the problematic depth of our fiscal future. But what is it when a serious attempt produces such unworkable ideas? On one level, it's certainly brave. There's no doubt it's kindled a debate that is long overdue and which, until now, has been foolish on both sides. In that, there's much to be admired; and on some level I'm in awe of their willingness to go all in. No Democrat has, not in a long long time.* But to have come up with such uniformly bad ideas, so out of balance, so blatant in their fealty to the wealthy at the expense of everyone else... What the heck explains it?

For one thing, ironically, it might be the easy gullibility of teabaggers that led them down this path. For two years, Republican leaders (by which I don't just mean guys like Ryan and Boehner: I mean the Foxobeckians, the megamillionaire RWS™ and the billionaires who make Koch suckers of them all) have had their way with teabaggers, so easily that they must laugh themselves to sleep every night under their 1500 thread-count sheets of Egyptian cotton. Seriously. How not to get, well, incautious, if it's become so easy to get everything you want, simply by convincing teabaggers that down is up? Maybe they just stopped even pretending to care about the country as a whole. Why waste the time, they must figure. We've got them right where we want them; they're buying everything we're selling, like magnetic cure-alls on late-night tv.

Still, I don't sense that Mr Ryan is entirely dumb. Of his honesty, I have no way of knowing. Apparently, he absolutely believes in cutting taxes on the wealthy and that to pay for it it's perfectly acceptable to cut programs for the needy and, for practical purposes, to wipe away Medicare and all ability to underwrite our future. And yet, teabaggers notwithstanding (and even they don't like his reverse Robin Hood medicare plans), it seems so obvious that these needs of his wouldn't be acceptable to a majority -- anywhere near a majority -- of voters. So what made him put it out there anyway?

Did he figure that, as it always has, the RWS™ and Foxabeckohannitean blanket of propaganda would smother the country in disinformation? They've gotten away with everything else, so why not this?

Or perhaps he's the world's greatest and most selfless politician, willing to take the hits in order eventually to get to a plan that meets half way and is workable. Maybe he thought from the beginning that it was the only way to get the conversation started and he expected that the end point involved raising revenues and making less drastic cuts to social programs. But it doesn't seem so: before there was any reaction at all he proclaimed the only possible criticisms would be demagoguery and lies. Boehner has said changes in the tax ideas are off the table.

No, the impression I have is that they're deadly serious about their plan, and wish to brook no compromise. By all appearances, they're just out with it: they're rich, they want further to enrich themselves, and they don't seem to care about the consequences for anyone else. Or for the country.

But, sure, maybe it's a rope-a-dope.

An alternate explanation suggests the opposite: CongressionRs don't really believe in their budget, but they're afraid of teabagger backlash. There's no doubt that that small group of highly vocal and lowly knowledgeable people have disproportionate influence; god knows they've elected some impressively idiotic people at the expense of some, for Republicans, half-reasonable ones. But can the R brain trust be fully dismissive of the idea that their party could contain significant numbers of people who know arithmetic? Maybe so. And maybe they're right. They're just worried about their own political asses.

As I think I've made clear, I'm all for serious reform of the tax code, social programs, defense spending. More than most in my party, I'm okay with sensible changes in both Social Security and Medicare. Unlike some members of both parties, I'm on board with the idea of effectiveness research and oversight of implementation, as a serious plan, the best hope to control health care costs. But it's as clear to me as morning dew in sunshine that we cannot get our fiscal house in order and have the funds needed to maintain our infrastructure, education, research, energy needs, without also raising taxes. And cutting defense spending. It all has to happen in some form or another. Through the smoke, that's undeniable; the argument needs to be about how, and how much.

Paul Ryan has proposed an approach that he must have known would be unacceptable. Likely, he's even smart enough to know that even if he could sell it to teabaggers -- on whose selfish gullibility and magical thinking the RWS™ have always been able to count -- it can't actually work as a blueprint for our nation to survive. There's the plan, and then there's math.

So what explains it? Is it the overreach of the overprivileged, like rock stars and athletes who think they can get away with anything because to them the rules have never applied; do the Foxobeckians think that they're entitled to whatever they want, simply because it's they who want it?

Or was it a giant miscalculation? I've written several paragraphs now, and I still have no idea.

* I misspoke, and I should have known it, because I was aware of this plan by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It's bold. Bolder than Ryan's, I'd say. It has gotten, however, rounded-off, zero attention from the media.

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