Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Scurrilous and the Superficial

It appears to me the Republican Party is attempting to get away (and perhaps succeeding) with the most scurrilous attack on a President of the United States ever undertaken. You will notice they constantly complain how it is President Obama has failed to create jobs, has failed to improve the economy, has failed to lead and etc. Obama is to be blamed for everything, bar none. What they fail to acknowledge is the obvious fact that they, themselves, have undermined every attempt he has made to turn the economy around, create jobs, and so forth. The slow growth of jobs and the economy is directly traceable to the deliberate, planned, announced program of doing everything possible to make Obama a failed one term President. Having been reasonably successful in keeping Obama from making much in  the way of progress they have the unmitigated gall to blame him for the failure. As far as failing to lead goes, Obama has tried to lead, has tried to gain bipartisan support, has gone a long way to compromise, only to be snubbed and rebuffed at every turn. How is a President supposed to lead when one of the two political parties announced their intention from the beginning of his tenure they had no intention of cooperating with him in any way and were determined to remove him from office as soon as possible? From the standpoint of our nation what the Republicans have done is absolutely shameful. History is not going  to treat them well, let us hope the next three plus years will do the same.
As far as the superficial goes, one need only look at the famous (or infamous) Ryan budget. It is superficial in more ways than one. First, it is basically nonsensical as it has no chance whatsoever of succeeding. It also neglects to say just what loopholes would be closed as part of the plan. It is said by many to be not even a serious attempt to create a real budget. As a mere copy of his original budget plan that was already defeated in the recent election, perhaps even worse than the original, it ignores the outcome of that election and there is no serious justification for presenting it again. It also calls for eliminating Obamacare, a proposition that has been defeated at least 32 times previously, is now the law of the land, and is thus both superficial and unnecessary.
If this is so, and I guess it pretty much is, one might ask why Ryan even bothered to present it again. Some say it was not meant to be serious as it is really an attempt to maintain the Tea Party base, others, like Ryan himself, are trying to suggest it is merely to stimulate discussion and lead to eventual negotiation. As it is so bad I doubt there will be much negotiation over it, certainly not when it comes to overturning Obamacare or making Medicare a voucher program, to say nothing of the host of other outrageous cuts demanded of popular programs like Pell grants and such.
There is another question that comes at least into my mind. What qualifications does Ryan possess to make him a serious budget guru in the first place? My granted, somewhat superficial research into Herr Ryan does not indicate to me he has any special qualifications to be authoring a definitive budget for the United States of America. His father died when he was 16 and he received Social Security benefits until  18 that helped him go to college. He graduated from a not particularly prestigious college (Miami University in Oxford, Ohio) in 1992 with a dual degree in economics and political science. One of his major influences was the work of Ayn Rand. He was an intern for Wisconsin Senator Bob Kasten as a foreign policy advisor (in the summer he worked as a salesman for Oscar Mayer and once drove the Wienermobile). He was attacked to Kasten’s office as a staff economist for a time but also worked as a waiter, fitness trainer, and even a speechwriter. He also worked for a time as a marketing consultant for a relative’s firm. After being elected to Congress he eventually became the ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee and became chairman of that body in 2011. In his 13 years in the House he sponsored 71 bills or amendments, only two of which were enacted into law, one renamed a Post Office, the other lowered the excise tax on arrow shafts.
I could of course be quite wrong in my analysis of this record (that came mostly from Wikpedia) but it does not indicate to me any particular expertise on budgeting for the nation. I know, you might think his experience on the Budget Committee would be of great relevance, but he was not appointed there to further study economics but, presumably, because he already had such knowledge (and remember the kinds of people appointed to the science committee). In any case, although I might be unfair, I cannot  see why he has any more expertise for creating a national budget than most anyone else. I suspect that anyone, starting from the assumption a balanced budget was absolutely necessary, could play with figures that would produce that result. But, as in Ryan’s case, they would not necessarily have any connection with reality or with the needs and desires of the citizenry. As there is no compelling need to have a balanced budget (an extremely rare occurrence in U.S. history), and certainly no necessity to have one in ten years, this is the kind of exercise that might be given to University students. You can play around with the figures all you want as long as it is merely an academic exercise with no connection with reality. Ryan is basically a charlatan and his budget superficial. It is a pity that so much time is being wasted on it.

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