Paul Ryan discovers irony, blasts ‘painful austerity’

I can’t relate to Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) right-wing ideology on any level, any more than I can appreciate his love of Ayn Rand novels. But once in a while I’m reminded that the gap between the House Budget Committee chairman and those who appreciate reason goes well beyond political philosophy.

Consider this Ryan quote, flagged yesterday by Alan Pyke:

“Let’s review for a moment the path we are on, where we stand right now. It pains me to say this, but it’s become clear that the president has committed us to the current path: higher taxes, more dependency, more bureaucratic control, inaction on the drivers of our debt — just not even dealing with it — and painful austerity, the kind you see in Europe.”

I was going to write that I have no idea what Paul Ryan is talking about, but it’s far more accurate to say Paul Ryan has no idea what Paul Ryan is talking about.

To characterize President Obama’s “current path” as one featuring “higher taxes” is rather foolish, given that Obama has repeatedly cut taxes — even more than his conservative Republican predecessor did. To complain that Obama refuses to “deal with … the drivers of our debt” is even more bizarre, since the president offered congressional Republicans a $4 trillion debt-reduction plan (GOP leaders said it wasn’t right-wing enough), and in September, unveiled another, more sensible plan that would achieve $3.2 trillion in debt reduction. This isn’t “inaction” on the issue; it’s the opposite.

But it’s that last line from Ryan that stands out as truly ridiculous. The Republicans’ alleged budget wonk is warning against European-style “painful austerity”? This is just madness.

For months, GOP officials have been praising European-style austerity and demanding that U.S. policymakers follow Europe’s lead on this (except the parts in which Europe reduced their deficits by raising taxes). Now Ryan is warning against it?

More to the point, Ryan is the one pushing for austerity measures, as evidenced by his budget plan that slashed spending, specifically targeting programs that benefit working families, imposing widespread pain in the name of deficit reduction. It was a sham, of course — Ryan also wanted to cut taxes on the wealthy, which made his talk about fiscal responsibility look ridiculous — but he insisted that austerity was necessary to improve economic “confidence.”

And yet, here’s a speech in which Ryan complaining that the Obama White House has the nation on course for “painful austerity.”

Apparently, the House Budget Committee chairman would have us believe we have to accept an austerity agenda in order to avoid accepting an austerity agenda.

Pyke described this as “insane.” I’m very much inclined to agree.