Sunday, March 14, 2010

Galt Boy

Krugman: Saving Ryan’s Privatization

So, for a few weeks Rep. Paul Ryan was the toast of the punditocracy; his Roadmap was hailed as the serious Republican response to America’s fiscal problems. But it turns out, predictably, to have been a Potemkin plan: it wouldn’t balance the budget, even after two generations. What it would do is massively redistribute income upward, raising taxes and slashing benefits for most Americans, while providing huge tax breaks for the top 0.1 percent of the population.

Naturally, Ryan’s response to these revelations has been a hissy fit. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities — which has always, in my experience, been impeccably honest and careful in its work — does the point by point rebuttal.

But I’d like to follow up on small but revealing point: Ryan’s claim that diverting a substantial share of payroll taxes receipts into individual accounts does not constitute partial privatization of Social Security You see, there’s a history here.

Back when the Cato Institute first began pushing for individual Social Security accounts, it called its push, well, The Project on Social Security Privatization. As the Bush administration got ready to make its privatization push, however, it became clear that “privatization” polled badly. So the project was renamed The Project on Social Security Choice. And Republicans began bristling at any suggestions that they were proposing privatization, calling that a slander. Really.

Wait, it gets better. Cato engaged in Orwellian tactics — deleting the term “privatization” from older web posts and even from records of old conferences. But they were sloppy; there were traces of the true history throughout. I don’t know if they’re still continuing the practice.

In any case, Ryan’s attempt to deny that what his own movement used to call privatization is, in fact, privatization should settle the question of his sincerity.

  • Sully adds:
    At some point, fiscally conservative Republicans, if there are any real ones left, are going to have to deal with raising taxes. Just call it following Reagan and Bush I, if you really can't bring yourself to give Clinton any credit.
  • from the comments, Tindalos:
    I used to think that movement conservatives understood their cause was intrinsically anti-democratic and were simply being cynically disingenuous in their public relations. Now I think that is only true of some, the rest (and I suspect Ryan belongs in this group) believe they are soldiers in the army of righteousness.

    Although it was published nearly sixty years ago, Eric Hoffer's (1951) "True Believer" has as much to say about modern movement conservatism as it had to say about its predecessors: There are deep, empty places in the soul that can only be filled by membership in a cause that knows how to punish the unrighteous.

    As Hoffer notes, "Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil."

    To question Ryan's numbers is not merely to question his math or his theory, it is to question an entire worldview that dictates those numbers must be true, the very foundation of his righteousness: Ryan and those of like mind can only conclude the questioner is corrupted by evil and it is certainly not Ryan's sincerity that will be viewed as questionable, oh no, not at all.
  • Michael Radosevich:
    Only the complete lack of character and candor on the part of the TV networks, NPR, & most newspapers have kept Rep. Ryan's proposals from being described for what those proposals are: just a warmed over version of Reagan-GW Bush economics [famously described as voodoo economics by GHW Bush]. As you note, Mr. Ryan's proposals simply try to transfer even more wealth to the top 1% of American rich people.

    As for his proposal to privatize Social Security, thank you for showing that's exactly what he wants to do. As for the Cato Institute, it is clearly not a serious organization. No serious organization would "go back in time" to delete its position papers. How Orwellian is that? The key, however, is that supposedly reputable organizations like NPR continue to cite the Cato Kool-Aiders & interview Cato representatives as if they are serious, honest intellectuals.

    Of course since NPR is also giving a lot of air time to Pete Peterson & his merry band of fraudsters, it is not surprising that it also kowtows to the Cato Institute. NPR - No Principles Radio.
DougJ: My Politico problem — and ours

After being endlessly harassed by many of you about my tendency to read Politico and link to some of the articles, I am now entering the early stages of a three-week Politico detox program. During the first week, I will allow myself to check the Politico website periodically , but each time that I do, I will have to read through the entirety of one of their so-called “Ideas” pieces.

Just to give you some idea of how effective a deterrent that can be, I am excerpting the one that I read today:

Some remain skeptical, but acknowledge a zeitgeist shift in the idea that Republicans can be smart, too. Wonkette noted, “Ryan has been considered the smartest Republican in world history” after his televised exchanges with President Barack Obama on health care.


So, if prominent political analysts want to call prospective Republican presidential candidates nerds, this is a positive step for the party — even if the designations are misleading.

Ryan is tall and youthful looking, with no mannerisms of a nerd beyond a relentless intelligence. He went to Miami University of Ohio, not known as a nerd school, and was in a non-nerd fraternity — Delta Tau Delta.

Mitch Daniels, for his part, did go to Princeton. But he is funny, a work-out fanatic and owns two Harleys. He even has a cool nickname — “the Blade” — from his budget cutting proclivities as director of Office of Management and Budget.

During the second week, I am not allowed to visit the main site, but I can still read some of the blogs.

The third week—no reading of the Politico whatsoever.

I’ve loaded up my Google reader with lots of RSS feeds to get me through whenever I feel that urge to visit Politico. But I’m going to need your help too.

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