Ross Douthat, putting his most Very Serious hat on:
George W. Bush touched the third rail of American politics with his Social Security gambit, and lived to regret it. With their proposal to transform Medicare from an open-ended entitlement to a system that provides support for seniors’ premiums, Ryan and the Republicans are reaching out and grabbing it with both hands. In the process, they are being brutally honest with the American people, in ways that the Obama White House has repeatedly refused to be, about the scale of the deficit challenge and the scope of the reforms needed to address it.Be prepared to hear tons like this in the coming weeks. This is a narrative that the mainstream media goes orgasmic over: talk of "toughness," "courage," "honesty," etc, in someone making a proposal that will anger a favored political constituency-- never mind that the people who Paul Ryan is getting tough on here are poor people, who are actually powerless. (The media particularly likes these getting tough measures when, as is the case for Ross Douthat and the political class writ large, they will not actually be asked to suffer at all, given their elevated economic station.)
But here's what you must remember, amid all of the inevitable talk about toughness and moxy and courage and gusto and whatever else: courage, honesty, seriousness, and assorted other pieces of vague praise are meaningless when married to bad policy. Being honest and being tough about your priorities are the opposite of virtues when those priorities are bad for the country and the majority of its people. It's the absolute worst kind of politico bullshit to act as though honesty qua honesty or toughness qua toughness matter when they are addressing a terrible policy.
I'll invite you to read Matt Yglesias or TAPPED's posts from the past day to get a good handle on the fundamental issues with Ryan's budget, as those folks are far better at writing about domestic policy than I am. What we absolutely have to insist on when discussing this budget moving forward is to point out what it represents: it is yet another attempt by conservatives and Republicans to speed even more resources towards the rich and away from the poor. Period, full stop, thanks for playing, enjoy the home game. Now, you might rightly wonder why someone would draft this immense document for achieving such a purpose, because at the behest of the conservative movement, we have done exactly that-- robbed from the middle class and poor to pay the rich-- for 30 years. Paul Ryan's budget hurts the poor in order to make things better for the rich. That's what it does. That's what it's intended to do. How could Ross Douthat support such a thing, when we have been traveling that road for decades?
I will quote Kevin Drum:
Years ago I remember a lot of moderate liberals talking about how the Bush era radicalized them. For me, it was the economic collapse of 2008 that did it. The financial industry almost literally came within a hair's breadth of destroying the world, but even so it took only a few short months for them to close ranks with Republicans and the rich to prevent anything serious being done to rein them in. Profits are back up, new regulations are barely more than window dressing, nothing was done to help underwater homeowners, bonuses are as obscene as ever, unemployment remains sky high, and the public has somehow been convinced that this was all their own fault — or perhaps the fault of big government, or big deficits, or something. But the finance industry has escaped almost entirely unscathed. It's mind boggling. If this doesn't change your view of who really runs the world, I don't know what would.You'll note that this is merely one of the more recent and more damning examples, our total inability or refusal to discipline the financial sector being merely the razor's edge of our insane, endless push to better the wealthiest at the expense of everyone else. Decades of policy attend to the same goal. What I would ask Paul Ryan if I didn't know that he is a shameless fraud or Ross Douthat if I could reach him is, where is the limit? Is there truly no end to our efforts to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted? When does shame finally set in?
Douthat says, "Whatever you think of what the House Republicans are proposing, it’s the antithesis of politics as usual." No, Ross. It's the epitome of the politics as usual; it's an attack on those with no agency to defend themselves, celebrated for bullshit DC-insider code words like "tough" and "courageous" that mean nothing compared to the actual effects of the policy. Only someone looking down from the rarefied air of the NYT op/ed page-- financially secure, in possession of good health insurance, disconnected, unaffected by the proposed policy, and as deep in the bubble as one can go-- could call it anything else than politics as usual.
Update: To wit.