The answer is….not very brave at all.
To be sure, Paul Ryan is brave.
That’s the widespread moderate reaction to Ryan’s budget-slashing budget. He might be a monster, a bizarro class warrior, a heartless, draconian reverse-Robin Hood robber of the the American family. But how brave to put all that nasty stuff on paper!
Washington’s badge of courage for Ryan is an awkward honor. His ideas are widely reviled among moderate think tanks and Washington offices. Reducing Medicare by capping payments to seniors is one part reform and three parts politically-unacceptable rationing. It is, as my colleague Graeme Wood once said, a bit like trying to lose weight by binging on doughnuts while wearing a tight corset.
Ryan’s enthusiasm for slashing Medicare is shared by only 4 percent of the public. Four percent. The United States has eight times more ghost-believers than wannabe-Medicare-cutters. This is absurd, but it’s also refreshing. There is something redeeming about politicians sailing by their own values rather than tacking to adjust for every gust of public polling.
But where was this applause in November, when Rep. Jan Schakowsky, the most liberal member of the president deficit commission, proposed an equally bold proposal to fix out budget. She reformed Social Security exclusively with tax increases on people making more than $106,000. She cut spending but found 90 percent of the fat in defense. Then she killed $130 billion in tax benefits for companies without lowering their rate, leaving us with perhaps the highest effective corporate tax rate in the developed world. In all, her plan was 90 percent higher taxes and defense cuts. Ninety percent.
Calling for an historically high tax increase for the rich and corporate America is just as bold and courageous on the merits as a call for the end of Medicare and Medicaid, isn’t it? Why are Ryan’s ideas greeted with a hero’s welcome, even among moderates who disagree, while Schakowsky’s ideas were written off as boilerplate liberalism outside the lefty blogosphere?
- Paul Ryan, Coward? (swampland.blogs.time.com)
- Profiles in Cowardice: How the Beltway Punditocracy Gets Paul Ryan’s Plan Totally Wrong (time.com)
- KRUGMAN: Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan Is Ludicrous And Cruel (businessinsider.com)
- Krugman: The Paul Ryan $2.9 trillion tax cut will increase the deficit and transfer income upward (americablog.com)
I’ve said since the fall of 2009 that the President and the Dems needed to move “progressive/left” and populist. I still believe that. He needs to be the President that ran in 2007-2008. That rhetoric won the day and it is still popular. The fact that our politics now only discuss deficits and spending tells you just how complete the Republican rhetoric is and just how much the Dems need a counter-narrative to fight back. They had, and we voted for, a counternarrative in 2008… Where has it gone Mr President??
More than three years after we entered the worst economic slump since the 1930s, a strange and disturbing thing has happened to our political discourse: Washington has lost interest in the unemployed.
Jobs do get mentioned now and then — and a few political figures, notably Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, are still trying to get some kind of action. But no jobs bills have been introduced in Congress, no job-creation plans have been advanced by the White House and all the policy focus seems to be on spending cuts.
So one-sixth of America’s workers — all those who can’t find any job or are stuck with part-time work when they want a full-time job — have, in effect, been abandoned.
It might not be so bad if the jobless could expect to find new employment fairly soon. But unemployment has become a trap, one that’s very difficult to escape. There are almost five times as many unemployed workers as there are job openings; the average unemployed worker has been jobless for 37 weeks, a post-World War II record.
In short, we’re well on the way to creating a permanent underclass of the jobless. Why doesn’t Washington care? – Paul Krugman