IF THE RADICAL RYAN IS THEIR TEMPLATE…. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, is touting his proposed budget “roadmap,” intended to address the budget mess his party had created during the Bush/Cheney era. To suggest that it’s a radical document would be a dramatic understatement, but it’s nevertheless a vision a variety of Republicans have widely embraced.
Given that it’s become something of a template for conservatives’ vision of government, it’s worth considering in more detail what, exactly, Paul Ryan and his many far-right allies want to do with the levers of power. After all, there’s a reasonably strong chance that Ryan will be the House Budget Committee chairman in just 10 months. What does he have in mind?
Jon Chait explains today that Ryan’s roadmap “clarifies the essence of the Republican Party’s approach to domestic policy issues.” That means massive tax breaks for corporations and the rich, shifting the federal tax burden heavily onto the middle class, eliminating Social Security, privatizing Medicare, and creating a health care system that punishes the sick — all from a congressman who, by his own admission, “got involved in public service” because he was inspired by Ayn Rand.
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.
This is more important than just highlighting the truly extreme nature of Paul Ryan’s radical plan. Indeed, that’s the easy part. The angle that’s easily overlooked is that Ryan’s way is becoming the Republican way. Indeed, just today the GOP leadership picked Ryan to serve on President Obama’s 18-member deficit-reduction panel, despite his extremist agenda.
Republicans and the conservative mainstream aren’t reading Ryan’s plan and dismissing it as a bizarre Randian fantasy, at odds with American traditions, morality, and common sense; Republicans and the conservative mainstream arenreading Ryan’s plan and quietly nodding their heads.
And that’s why the very idea of Democrats and Republicans finding common ground isn’t just unrealistic, it’s become increasingly ridiculous. There’s no basis for talks, no shared sense of values, no common commitments.
As John Cole explained last year, “I really don’t understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane. Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax.”