Paul Ryan: “No, Really – I Mean It”

One of the reasons that Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 is that the Republican agenda had been shattered. After eight years of Bush/Cheney, our economy crashed due to deregulation, while the federal deficit soared because of unfunded wars and tax cuts for the wealthy. Similarly, our foreign policy was a mess because, after invading Afghanistan, we pretty much ignored those who were actually responsible for 9/11 and went on to invade Iraq based on lies that were meant to gin up a “global war on terror.” We abandoned basic universal values with an embrace of things like torture and the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Americans were ready to abandon all of what the Republican Party stood for in the modern era.

That’s what led the GOP to become “post-policy.” Instead of fighting for what they wanted to do to address the challenges America faced, they decided to fight President Obama and obstruct anything he attempted to accomplish. The result is that their current presidential nominee is the one who best captured post-policy nihilism.

Obviously that approach doesn’t sit well with House Speaker Paul Ryan. As the guy who impressed a lot of the Washington press corp with his wonkishness, he is determined to take Republicans back to the the agenda that failed in the past. This week Ryan announced that starting next week, Congressional Republicans will release six policy papers that he calls their “Confident America” agenda.

As Steve Benen noted, you can hear Ryan saying, “No, really – I mean it,” in this quote:

“What you will see with these [releases] are detailed policy papers,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “We’re not talking about principles here. This is substance. It’s going to be a clear explanation of the policy changes that are needed in these areas.”

The six areas to be covered include: poverty, taxes, healthcare, national security, regulations and constitutional authority. In case anyone is tempted to think that they will be any different from the failed Republican policies of the past, there’s this:

Ryan declined to detail the contents of the policy papers, other than a offer a few hints: anti-poverty proposals will transition existing programs from “a work replacement system to a work encouragement system”; deficit reduction proposals will not affect seniors in or near retirement; and a healthcare overhaul will involve repealing the Affordable Care Act despite recent member proposals that wouldn’t involve full repeal.

In other words, we’ll see social programs block-granted to states (with significant reductions in revenue), voodoo economics with tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization of entitlement programs and the elimination health care coverage for millions of people. Sound familiar? Of course, Ryan will dress all of that up with language that pretends it will actually help working Americans. But it will all be the same-old same-old that failed so miserably in the past.

Yesterday I described the dance that is currently going on between Ryan and Trump – mostly from the perspective of what Trump is looking for (submission to his enormous ego). This is what Ryan wants. It is the classic post-truth/post-policy battle that has been going on among Republicans over the last few years. To the extent that Ryan makes any headway in that dance, it would provide a contrast for the 2016 election. Do Americans want to return to the failed policies of the Bush/Cheney years? Or do they want to continue the policies that have worked during the Obama administration?

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .