Four years later, Paul Ryan wants more of the same

Just when I thought that the National Review Institute demonstrated that Republicans are ready to compromise, Paul Ryan outlined a somewhat apocalyptic vision of budget negotiations there on Saturday.

According to POLITICO, Ryan said “that the nation will face ‘tepid growth and deficits’ under President Barack Obama and Republicans must prudently ‘buy time’ and ‘keep the bond markets at bay — for the sake of our people.'” Like a third-rate objectivist action hero, he is.

Ryan continued:

“Unfortunately, the Democrats are unlikely to accept our proposals. They refuse to consider real reform. But we will lay the groundwork for future endeavors. So when reform is possible, we will be ready.

“The president will bait us. He’ll portray us as cruel and unyielding,” Ryan said. “Look, it’s the same trick he plays every time: Fight a straw man. Avoid honest debate. Win the argument by default.

But neither the President nor any other Democrats need to portray Ryan as “cruel and unyielding” because his policies do a fantastic job of that on their own.

Ryan has time and time again demonstrated that he isn’t interested in paying down the national debt or in “reforms to protect and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid,” as he claimed on Saturday. He’s interested in turning Medicare into a voucher program and in slashing Medicaid’s budget by over a trillion dollars — his logic reminiscent of that infamous Vietnam era talking point “destroying the village in order to save it.” And speaking of bombs, Ryan has repeatedly refused to consider cutting one of the most draining and unnecessarily large parts of the budget: defense spending. He also refuses to consider forcing those with mountains of idle or otherwise unproductive cash to pay for these programs, and isn’t content with Democratic compromises thus far, refusing to appreciate the $2.2 trillion in cuts agreed to during the 112th Congress, because he’s cranky about the $620 billion in tax increases.

Moreover, he isn’t even right about the one thing that libertarian types are supposed to be intimately familiar with — the bond market. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, interest rates are about as low as they can be and aren’t expect to rise, and demand for U.S. Treasury bonds is robust. This suggests that the market has confidence in the U.S. government’s ability to honor its debts, and that federal borrowing isn’t “crowding out” private sector investment.

Who’s avoiding honest debate, Congressman Ryan?

POLITICO also reported that Ryan’s outlook contrasts sharply with Speaker Boehner’s. The latter is attempting to compromise with Democrats by forcing the Senate to pass a budget so that the two houses can find some middle ground. But if Ryan uses his budget committee chair to turn this into another fiscal knock-down drag-out fight — something that makes virtually no sense in light of his party’s November drubbing, and Congress’ low approval rating — the ensuing conference committee might make the super committee look like serious adults.

So much for learning from the past four years.

Samuel Knight

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.