Sullivan on Paul Ryan

Sullivan on Paul Ryan August 23, 2012

Andrew Sullivan was on vacation when Paul Ryan was named as Romney’s vice presidential nominee and he was committed enough to taking a break that he didn’t weigh in on it until he got back to work. But here is his take on the Ryan nomination, with which I mostly agree:

Most important, he has that quintessential characteristic of the modern conservative – total denial of the recent past. Ryan was instrumental and supportive of the most fiscally reckless administration in modern times. He gave us a massive new unfunded entitlement, two off-budget wars and was key to ensuring that the Bowles-Simpson plan was dead-on-arrival. This alleged fire-fighter – whose credentials are perceived as impeccable in Washington – just quit being an arsonist…

But, no, he is not a serious fiscal conservative. Not even close. In 2012, decades after supply-side economics was proven not to add more revenues than it gave back, Ryan is still a true-believer. His view is that if you cut taxes massively, you will decrease the debt. But this is the primary reason we currently have the massive debt that began its ascent under Reagan, was arrested by Bush and Clinton and then exploded under Bush and Ryan. Worse, Ryan believes that you can cut taxes drastically, increase defense spending massively and still cut the debt. This, to put it mildly, is Zombie-Reaganomics. Tax rates are already far lower than they were in 1980 – and can’t be cut still further and have the same impact. Besides, our problem right now is obviously lack of demand, rather than enervated supply. Companies are sitting on piles of cash. Interest rates are very very low. And yet we struggle under a debt burden Ryan would immediately drastically increase, with a promise to get to a balanced budget somewhere near the middle of the century. It makes zero sense to me…

On the Republican side, we now have a debt-reduction plan that actually cuts tax rates for the very rich along with everyone else, vastly increases defense spending, and “balances” the entire thing on gutting care for the old, the poor and the sick (the Medicaid proposal is truly Darwinian) and ending loopholes (which Ryan refuses to specify). I’m all for ending loopholes but even then, we wouldn’t get a balanced budget for three decades because of all the defense spending and tax cutting.

This isn’t conservatism. It’s rightist theology. In a fiscal emergency, the Republicans are proposing not clear remedies but ideological fantasies that were already disproven in 1990. They have learned nothing. And the immense damage they inflicted on this country’s fiscal health in the last decade would be nothing compared to what would come under a Ryan-Romney administration.

Yeah, that.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Homo Straminus

    So, if R/R get elected (which I highly doubt), and Sullivan’s predictions come true (which I highly suspect), does anyone really believe that Republicans will recognize the failed policy as failed policy?

    Is there any possible scenario where they would admit their error(s)? I can’t think of one.

  • CJO

    They have no interest in actually governing, so they don’t give a damn anymore. The government in the hands of these scumbags is a mechanism for transferring public wealth into private and corporate bank accounts and nothing more (well, it can also be used as an instrument for tormenting women, the poor, and minorities, but that’s just gravy). All their bullshit about “small government” and over-regulation and closing loopholes are just so much whining that the mechanism is too complicated; it doesn’t always funnel public wealth into private hands as efficiently as it might.

  • tubi

    I like how people are calling it the “Ryan/Romney” ticket. Romney is a non-entity, really, and the debate is going to focus a lot on Ryan’s perceived fiscal conservatism and draconian social positions, as it should. No one should really give a rat’s what Romney has to say about anything, because we all know he’ll say the opposite with his next breath.

  • tubi

    And more on point, Ryan/Romney stooge Kevin Madden was on “This Week…” last Sunday, contra Stephanie Cutter. In response to questions about the Ryan budget decreasing Romney’s taxes to <1%, because of cuts in capital gains taxes, Madden tried to explain that it was really a tax cut for the middle class, incentivizing them to save and invest, etc, etc.

    I had two responses:

    1. Fuck you for incentivizing people to do something they're not in a position to do. People scraping by check to check aren't exactly scouring the Financial Times for the next hot IPO.

    2. We don't need more saving and investing. We need more consuming. The Ryan plan would create a bunch of middle class investors buying in to startups that ultimately fail, costing the investors everything, because they HAVE NO CUSTOMERS!!

    Seriously, what is wrong with these people?

  • kbonn

    This is going to continue to be a problem as long as the Republicans can convince the demographics that they take advantage of, to keep voting for them. So long as poor/lower middle class whites vote overwhelming based on the idea that they are losing “their” “Christian” country, Republican will remain a competitive party if they can peel off some voters from other groups.

  • d cwilson

    Is there any possible scenario where they would admit their error(s)? I can’t think of one.

    None whatsoever. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy utterly failed to increase revenue, create jobs, or reduce the deficit. So, what are Ryan/Romney advocating? More tax cuts for the wealthy! And, when those fail as well, the next GOP candidate will have to advocate ZERO taxes for the wealthy. And when that fails, the next GOP candidate will call for a “job creation tax” in which the poor and middle class’s wages will be funneled directly to the wealthy.

    And there will still be large numbers of blue collar workers who will vote republican because they’re afraid of losing their “Christian Nation”.

  • unbound

    @Homo Straminus & d cwilson – I think a potential answer is confirmed in Sullivan’s own writing:

    “This isn’t conservatism. It’s rightist theology.”

    Just like the religious can never admit that they have no real, objective basis for the existence of god (or jesus), most members of the GOP can never admit that their concepts have no real, objective basis for ever working.

    However, I think the real issue for the GOP members at the top is that they know it doesn’t work. They are true con artists that talk up a mark (the public) with fanciful ideas until they get the mark’s money, and either skip out of town, or continue to lead the mark on with promises that the rewards will be coming at any moment while changing the subject as quickly as possible (which is what god, gays, abortion, etc are used for). Being a GOP con artist is actually much easier than being a typical con artist because the public seems to have no memory of anything beyond the prior night’s news, and a good third of the country (or more) get their news from Pravda…er, Fox News.

  • wesleyelsberry

    My guess as to the internal mental state of GOP fiscal “wonks” like Paul Ryan would go like this:

    Trickle-down economics have not been disproved, since we haven’t completely dismantled government other than the military and haven’t eliminated regulations on business. It is false that one could expect a dosage-response curve that would show benefit for some partial implementation of trickle-down policies; one can only get the payoff if one goes all-in on the implementation.

    At least, that’s the only way I can get to even a rationalization for the observed behavior. Each time that part of their policy gets tried and fails, they think that we were just *so close* to actually doing it right; we just need to do it again, harder, to make it work. The failures aren’t attributed to the policy, just to the incomplete implementation. This also explains the progression to lack of compromise over time, since it is the compromise that gets blamed for failure.

  • Randomfactor

    was key to ensuring that the Bowles-Simpson plan was dead-on-arrival

    Stopped clock.

  • scienceavenger

    @8, as a former Objectivist (Ryan’s hero Rand’s philosophy), I say you hit the nail on the head. “Poison in the soup still kills, be it a bucket or a drop” is the mentality.

    It’s also worth noting any time someone talks about increasing military spending, or fights tooth and nail to keep it from being cut even slightly, what the proportion of the world’s military spending the US accounts for:

    40%

    of the world.

    Really.

  • eric

    Wes Elsberry @8:

    Each time that part of their policy gets tried and fails, they think that we were just *so close* to actually doing it right; we just need to do it again, harder, to make it work. The failures aren’t attributed to the policy, just to the incomplete implementation. This also explains the progression to lack of compromise over time, since it is the compromise that gets blamed for failure.

    I would tentatively agree with you, this is the way they are thinking.

    I like to point out that there has been ‘complete’ implementation in eight states, in that there is no (zero, zilch) personal income tax in those states.

    The results seem to indicate that as long as you have a strong additional source of income, you can do without it. But doing without it by no means leads to some nirvana where everyone is prosperous, owns a house, the streets are lined with rose petals, etc… The results are mixed. Washington State and New Hampshire are on the list (high education, low poverty, etc…), but so are Texas and Tennessee (which have the reverse).

    Oh, and most of those states make up for the lost revenue by imposing…wait for it…additional corporate taxes.

  • Randomfactor

    Each time that part of their policy gets tried and fails,

    It hasn’t failed yet. Rich richer, poor poorer. Anything else is a bug, not a feature.

  • eric

    Just an amusing follow-on, a while back there was a troll who haunted Ed’s blogs who got really upset about illegal immigration. He raged on about how they were leeching from red-blooded Americans by using services paid for by income taxes but not paying into them becuase they worked illegally. These leeches, he propounded, were the reason we needed to eliminate income tax altogether and use sales taxes. That would solve our woes and ensure there was plenty of revenue for state and local governments! When I pointed out that illegal immigrants in Texas already live under this system, and thus by rights could not be considered leeches at all, he disappeared. 🙂

  • d cwilson

    @8, as a former Objectivist (Ryan’s hero Rand’s philosophy), I say you hit the nail on the head. “Poison in the soup still kills, be it a bucket or a drop” is the mentality.

    Which shows they understand toxicology even less than they understand economics.

    Paracelsus explained best over 600 years ago:

    ‘Alle Ding sind Gift und nichts ohn’ Gift; allein die Dosis macht, das ein Ding kein Gift ist.

    Or, the shorter, more popular version in English:

    The dose makes the poison.

  • scienceavenger, #10:

    40%

    of the world.

    This state of affairs will not be tolerated. 51% minimum. U!S!A! U!S!A!

    Also, nice to see another “avenger” about, on the side of the angels reason.

  • Michael Heath

    Homo Straminus:

    Is there any possible scenario where they would admit their error(s)? I can’t think of one.

    It’s already far worse than this, Republicans been continuously demonstrating since at least 2002 that the more their talking point-friendly policies fail, the more committed they are to winning elections to employ those very policies. Republicans who attempt to avoid confronting these errors are being drummed out of the party; fealty to failed policies is now a litmus test in GOP primary elections.

    I’ve also seen some research on the psychology of idealogues that parallels this behavior on an individual level. I.e., convincingly revealing to an ideologue their premise is false and they become more committed to the falsified premise. Unfortunately this attribute infects liberal idealogues as well.

  • Michael Heath “Unfortunately this attribute infects liberal idealogues as well.”

    Well then, it’s a good thing they don’t have a party.

  • I was happy to see this:

    “I don’t share some Obama-supporters’ contempt for Paul Ryan. That’s in part because he comes across as a sincere, decent, fine fellow – whose Randian worldview has produced a reformist zeal known most intimately to an adolescent male.”

    at the beginning of Sullivan’s piece, instead of having to slog through a bunch of other nonsense to get there.

    Sullivan’s take on Ryan seems to be that Ryan is a good guy. He’s not, he’s a simplistic demagogue.

    He goes on to describe Ryan as being like an exotic hothouse plant of some sort who was “fed” his views; horseshit. Ryan is either too fucking stupid to form his own views or WAY more assholish than Sullivan gives him credit for being. I don’t really think you can have it both ways.

    “I like to point out that there has been ‘complete’ implementation in eight states, in that there is no (zero, zilch) personal income tax in those states.”.

    It is impossible to know what the net effect of “no income tax” means for those states, unless you have extensive data about how their budgets, social and infrastructural programs are funded and what other taxes and fees are levied on their residents and those non-residents travelling/doing business. For years NH had NO income tax or sales tax (they now have a sales tax on investment income). NH was fortunate to abut ME, MA and VT, all of who HAD sales tax. A quick scan of any NH border town’s parking lot (and their state liquor stores–huge these days) reveals the high %age of non-resident shoppers in that state. MA has gone so far as to have “tax free” weekends for retail shoppers and the response has been, not surprisingly, that people would, all things being equal, rather not drive long distances to procure identical items that are available in the same chain stores within MA’s borders.

    I know that your point was about income tax but to the working poor (and, increasingly, the middle class) sales and property taxes are much more onerous than income taxes. And there is, afaia, little in the way of tax relief from sales or property taxes.

  • jesse

    @demcommie–

    I think it’s no accident that Ayn Rand was most popular among my peers when I was in high school and college. After you graduate, if you’re smart, you realize that Rand

    — wasn’t much of a writer

    — has a philosophy that is not terribly well-thought out. I’d love to ask Rand what she thought of the fact that she was getting both Medicare and Social Security, which she said were not just bad policy but moral wrongs

    Rand also runs into problems because many Randian ideas about the “natural” state of being for humans simply fall flat against basic anthropology. NPR did an interesting story interviewing people from Reason a while back, and I kept wanting to ask the folks there “Really? You do understand that it is precisely the cooperative ability of humans that allowed us to you know, NOT get eaten by toothy animals?”

    Rand appeals to people — I am guessing here — who like adolescents, see themselves as the center of the universe, and anything good for the self must be reflected everywhere. The idea that maybe you aren’t in the position you are because of anything but blind stupid luck.

    After all, even the greatest CEO had to start somewhere. Steve Jobs would not have been what he was if he wasn’t raised by the family he was, given a lot of stuff that a kid just as smart and driven but born in Haiti will never have.

    Ryan and his ilk don’t get any of that.

    BTW, as a New Englander, I can tell you: NH was something else relative to the rest of the region. It was consistently last (or in the bottom 10) on most social indexes. Interestingly there’s always been a real class division there — the college towns and private schools and the rest of the state. Ever see “Affliction?” it really does look like that. As people from MA have made homes there (commuting to Boston, even, far but do-able) they’ve started demanding civilized things like roads with asphalt on them and schools that work for people who can’t send their kids to St. Paul’s. You want to see the effect of the “no taxes here” thing, go to Raymond.

    It’s also the home of the state run liquor store, so evidently on that score NHers are a bunch of socialists. 🙂 Brings in some pretty serious revenue tho.

  • katie

    As an erstwhile resident of New Hampshire, I can assure you that life without income or sales tax is not all that much fun, even if some of the revenue is made up from higher corporate taxes. That’s because, actually, most of it is made up of property taxes, making property exceptionally expensive even if it seems reasonably priced. Also, by the skeletonization of government services. Paved roads? Who needs paved roads when you’ve got no taxes!

  • Katie:

    Word.

    I’ve lived in eight different cities and towns in Cow Hampshire. I moved there back in the early 70’s when Derry was a wide spot in the road and Manchester was flat on its ass.

    I go to visit from time to time from where I live now, upstate NY.

    The foremost complaint of NH residents I know is the property tax issue. The secondary one–primary for border area residents is the MA,VT and ME income taxes they have to pay on wages earned in those states.

    “Live free or die.” seems to include living free of the impediment of nannystate social services.

    Where I live these days, people piss and moan about taxes, too (state income (and sometimes local income) taxes, sales taxes that are variable AND high property taxes. The property tax issue is a bit complicated because property tax, as %age of assessed value is high–but assessments are a fraction of what they were where I lived in NE. New houses, of course, tend to be assessed considerably higher than equivalent older homes (four houses in my neigborhood, all early 20th century contruction,all in the 1500 to 2200 sq ft range have sold for less than $100K, recently).

    What NOBODY bitches about here–most days–is the quality of roadways, bridges; snow removal, yard waste pickp; city,county and state social services and the like.

    My experience in all of the communities I’ve lived in is that while you may not ALWAYS get good value for services when you pay high taxes, you will almost NEVER get services without paying taxes*.

    * Unless you welcome the nuclear, packing or other dicey industry into your town.

  • M Groesbeck

    jesse @ 19 —

    Narcissism always sells. There’s Rand, of course. Wrapped up in right-wing religion, you have “prosperity gospel”. Swap out the Christianity for warm-and-fuzzy soft-focus new-age woo and you have “The Secret”. Some of the details are different, but the appeal is the same: “Being completely self-absorbed and uninterested in helping anyone else makes you a good person and you should be praised for it.”

  • Michael Heath

    democommie writes:

    Sullivan’s take on Ryan seems to be that Ryan is a good guy.

    As a daily dish reader I would argue that is not what’s demonstrated on Andrew Sullivan’s blog. In fact he’s been the best resource I’ve found to show what a failure Mr. Ryan is in the character department.

    Here’s two examples, the limit to avoid comment moderation:

    Paul Ryan is a liar: http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/05/paul-ryan-liar-ctd.html

    Paul Ryan claims that private charity will fill the vacuum left if he and his ilk are successful gutting the government. Andrew Sullivan notes Rep. Ryan’s hypocrisy given his lack of charitable contributions in spite of growing up well-to-do and making a case for charity, where the President gives far more: http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/08/paul-ryan-and-private-charity.html (While also noting Rick Santorum’s another Scrooge.)

  • Michael Heath:

    You read Sullivan’s blog a lot more than I do (twice would be double the number of times I’ve read it) so you would know better than I do. Otoh, I was only looking at the paragraph I cited–that does seem to say that Ryan would be okay if not for the koolaid. I think that he would be running some other con, if it wasn’t politics.

  • Michael Heath

    democommie writes:

    I think that he would be running some other con, if it wasn’t politics.

    Consider the difference between Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin. It’s obvious Palin has a lot of hatred and resentment stored-up inside her. She’s a lazy hateful bigot with an enormous chip on her shoulder. These are not attributes I see Paul Ryan demonstrating. Palin knows this about hereself while also knowing her physical attributes combined with her willingness to “go there” (divisive politics), provides a comfy living along with adulation. Her approach based on her attributes has her ending up practicing a similar form of politics like we see from Ryan, in spite of the fast differences of their personalities and aptitude. With the exception of Ryan’s faux-wonkiness where only John McCain was stupid enough to go there absurdly claiming Palin was in the top echelon of people understanding energy policy.

    Instead I see Paul Ryan as an immature salesman who drinks the very Kool-Aid which has made him powerful and popular. This happens even outside politics, I saw it alot in the tech sector, which was not good in the long-term since sales in that sector are mostly technical rather than fostered by slimy cronyism. So it was mostly a temporary event until the salesperson slipped off into oblivion. If serendipitous opportunities has you selling something, and the more you believe in that something the more money, fame, and power you get, many sales types will tend to become even more committed to believing in that which they are selling and more resistant to challenges it’s bullshit. To me this is the affliction Ryan suffers from. What amplifies this affect even further is the fact a key attribute of his tribe is to avoid any scrutiny of one’s core conservative beliefs – especially lessons from history and what experts understand.

  • macallan

    I like to point out that there has been ‘complete’ implementation in eight states, in that there is no (zero, zilch) personal income tax in those states.

    The results seem to indicate that as long as you have a strong additional source of income, you can do without it. But doing without it by no means leads to some nirvana where everyone is prosperous, owns a house, the streets are lined with rose petals, etc… The results are mixed. Washington State and New Hampshire are on the list (high education, low poverty, etc…), but so are Texas and Tennessee (which have the reverse).

    Tennessee also has a relatively high ( for a southern state ) sales tax. Can’t really complain too much though, public works seem to do alright and sometimes better than in other, less poor states. I doubt this has anything to do with the lack of a state income tax though and more with relative sanity in using the available money. On the other hand, it’s only a matter of time until the creationist nutters infest that part of the state government as well.