A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Category: Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan Hits It on the Head

by evanmcmurry

Apparently Paul Ryan now thinks sudden and harsh austerity measures are disruptive and traumatic to the economy. I’m sure he’s re-writing his past two budgets as we speak.

But here’s the key line that Ryan slips in. Listing previous examples of presidents negotiating over the debt ceiling, he includes:

Two years ago, Mr. Obama signed the Budget Control Act, which swapped spending cuts for a debt-ceiling hike.

Ha! So the “negotiating” Obama did during the debt ceiling debacle two years ago—at gunpoint—is now being used as a precedent to force him to “negotiate” now—at gunpoint. That’s exactly why Obama’s not negotiating now.

Paul Ryan to Write Book Like Some Sort of Common Person

by evanmcmurry

The zombie-eyed granny starver is putting pen to paper. Thoughts:

  • Atlas Shrugged is already taken. So is Fountainhead.
  • I hope it will contain more lines like “We’ve turned the safety net into a hammock.” Lol poorz!
  • Anybody want to take an over/under on whether it contains the details about specific spending cuts curiously missing from his last two budgets?

That’s if it actually gets written. I bet every time he closes his eyes to think of a sentence, he sees this.

Paul Ryan To Doom Republicans, Again (Again)

by evanmcmurry

Take three:

[Ryan’s new budget] appears to depend on at least one ridiculous assumption and two glaring contradictions. That’s for starters; I’m confident we’ll see more absurdities when the full proposal is released soon.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Ryan said his plan assumes that the far-reaching reforms known as Obamacare will be repealed. Host Chris Wallace reacted with open disbelief: “That’s not going to happen.”

Indeed, to take Ryan seriously is to believe that legislation repealing the landmark Affordable Care Act would be approved by the Senate, with its Democratic majority, and signed by Obama. What are the odds? That’s a clown question, bro.

As he did in the campaign, Ryan attacked Obama’s health reforms for cutting about $700 billion from Medicare over a decade, not by slashing benefits but by reducing payments to providers. Ryan neglected to mention that his own budget — the one he convinced the party to run on in 2012 — would cut Medicare by the same amount. Actually, by a little more.

This was hypocrisy raised to high art.

And so on, and on, and on. We’ve been through this twice already. Ryan, as a figure, has little to lose by releasing his budget; they restamp his serious card, which is kept in David Brooks’ desk, and endears him with a conservative base emphatic enough to keep him a viable primary candidate.

Why the GOP lets him keep doing this is beyond me. Ryan’s budget was the brake that first slowed the Tea Party surge; it’s arrival cut off the GOP’s 2010 momentum, lost them a special congressional election just months after the Tea Party wave, and left them in  a weakened spot for the debt ceiling debacle, which turned the tide of public opinion back toward Obama. Ryan’s 2012 budget got him onto the VP ticket, and just as quickly silenced, as the Romney campaign realized that everything he proposed was deeply unpopular with non-safe Republican districts.

It still is, and Democrats have noticed. They’re already plotting to use Ryan’s budget against GOP candidates in the 2014 midterms:

“The fact that the Paul Ryan budget envisions this really radical change of turning Medicare into a voucher program that passes all of the cost of health care inflation directly onto the backs of seniors puts them in a very vulnerable position,” Garin said. “The basic underlying philosophical premise of the Ryan budget is rejected by a voters in a way that shows up in this larger indictment of Republican policies in general.”

Garin pointed to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing that 57 percent of respondents disagree with what Republicans are proposing to do in Congress, while only 29 percent agreed.

“That is really fertile grounds in terms of – in terms of speaking to voters about how and why Republican candidates are out of step and out of touch with the realities that working people and middle-class families are facing today,” he said.

The way Garin sees it, Ryan’s budget will just reiterate the messages that cost the GOP elections in 2012, thereby handing Democrats infinite opportunities to “hold Republicans accountable – on the air, on the ground, in the mail, and online.”

“I would argue based on our experience of polling throughout the 2012 cycle that this sense of disagreement with the Republicans is born very much from a response to the Ryan budget itself and the set of policies that are encompassed in the Ryan budget,” he said. “The Republican brand has become a drag on candidates who are tarnished with it, even in states that are reasonably red in their complexion.”

This strategist is probably overstating the extent to which Ryan’s budget is explicitly linked to the least popular GOP policies. And second administration midterms are notoriously bad for the President’s party, and in contemporary politics midterms tend to favor conservatives. That being said, we all saw the team the GOP fielded in 2012, and we’ve all seen the woefully inadequate attempts at rebranding. And given that there’s not single instance of Ryan’s budget doing anything but severely harming the GOP’s electoral success, 2014 looks, if not good for the Democrats, then at least not the bloodbath it could have been.

Again, I get why Ryan keeps releasing these budgets. I don’t understand why anyone in his party acts like they even know his name.

Sentence of the Day

by evanmcmurry

As usual, from Charles Pierce; as usual, about Paul Ryan:

He is a Leading Intellectual Force in a party full of people who eat oatmeal with their toes.

As usual, the whole post is worth a read.

Is Paul Ryan Finished?

by evanmcmurry

After the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver’s selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate, I wrote that win or lose—and Ryan almost certainly ensured Romney would lose—Paul Ryan would succeed. He had everything to gain from the national exposure, including frontrunner status for 2016, and nothing to lose. Either Paul Ryan became Vice President or he showcased his budget chopping chops to a conservative electorate that had been dying to hear somebody voice his exact policies.

I’m ready to revise this view. As Charles Pierce pointed out, Paul Ryan added absolutely nothing to Romney’s ticket. He did not help Romney carry Wisconsin. He did not help Romney carry anything. He even won his home district by half the margin of his previous victory, meaning he barely carried himself.

One reason for this—aside from the fact that his policies are so radical that people literally did not believe he actually proposed them—is that the Romney campaign hid him from view. Ryan had the smallest impact on a presidential ticket of any running mate in modern political history, his convention speech stunk so badly with falsehoods that most factcheckers had to leave the room, and he immediately began to tank Romney’s numbers with seniors in Ohio and Florida. This was one thing when Romney was still lingering in his get-out-the-base phase. But when he made a left turn into Moderate Romney during the first debate—and reaped enough of a reward that it seemed like he could actually win the election—suddenly Ryan’s conservative credentials no longer outweighed his detrimental effects on the ticket. Here’s Noam Scheiber:

When Romney first picked Ryan, I argued that the only possible rationale was to appease conservatives, even though the move could ensure Romney’s defeat. By late September, the Romney campaign had come to this conclusion, too. Ryan vanished into endless debate-cramming sessions. Other than rallying the campaign’s most hardcore supporters, the only time he emerged from his undisclosed location (and you thought they only got those after the election) was to hold fundraisers in electorally critical states like Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. When the Romney campaign ran ads, the wingman they showcased wasn’t Ryan. It was Ohio Senator (and vice presidential also-ran) Rob Portman

The Pinochet-style disappearance of Ryan kinda, sorta worked. By late October, according to Quinnipiac, Romney was back to leading Obama among seniors in Florida and Ohio.

Remember that the first introduction most of us got to Ryan on an electoral level was when his budget cost the GOP a special election in New York in 2011, a move that sent Republicans running from him in the Capitol hallways. Ryan started to have the same effect on the Romney ticket, at which point advisers basically buried him in a hole. It seems that any time Paul Ryan gets near an actual electorate, he melts every Republican around him. Which means, for all the hot air about him being the intellectual bulwark of the conservative movement, we may never see him run for anything but his own seat ever again.

Paul Ryan Volunteers For Exactly As Long As He Worked In The Private Sector!

by evanmcmurry

To the Romney campaign’s credit, no poor people died due to lack of insurance during their soup kitchen photo-op, so maybe they were right about that:

The head of a northeast Ohio charity says that the Romney campaign last week “ramrodded their way” into the group’s Youngstown soup kitchen so that GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall.

Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, said that he was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit by Ryan, who stopped by the soup kitchen after a town hall at Youngstown State University.

“We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” Antal said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.”

He added: “The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”

Ryan had stopped by the soup kitchen for about 15 minutes on his way to the airport after his Saturday morning town hall in Youngstown. By the time he arrived, the food had already been served, the patrons had left, and the hall had been cleaned.

Upon entering the soup kitchen, Ryan, his wife and three young children greeted and thanked several volunteers, then donned white aprons and offered to clean some dishes. Photographers snapped photos and TV cameras shot footage of Ryan and his family washing pots and pans that did not appear to be dirty.

Krugman FTW

by evanmcmurry

Krugman is even sharper than usual today:

How many deaths are we talking about? That’s not an easy question to answer, and conservatives love to cite the handful of studies that fail to find clear evidence that insurance saves lives. The overwhelming evidence, however, is that insurance is indeed a lifesaver, and lack of insurance a killer. For example, states that expand their Medicaid coverage, and hence provide health insurance to more people, consistently show a significant drop in mortality compared with neighboring states that don’t expand coverage.

[…] So there’s no real question that lack of insurance is responsible for thousands, and probably tens of thousands, of excess deaths of Americans each year. But that’s not a fact Mr. Romney wants to admit, because he and his running mate want to repeal Obamacare and slash funding for Medicaid — actions that would take insurance away from some 45 million nonelderly Americans, causing thousands of people to suffer premature death. And their longer-term plans to convert Medicare into Vouchercare would deprive many seniors of adequate coverage, too, leading to still more unnecessary mortality.

[…] So let’s be brutally honest here. The Romney-Ryan position on health care is that many millions of Americans must be denied health insurance, and millions more deprived of the security Medicare now provides, in order to save money. At the same time, of course, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are proposing trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy. So a literal description of their plan is that they want to expose many Americans to financial insecurity, and let some of them die, so that a handful of already wealthy people can have a higher after-tax income.

Whole post is worth reading.

Joe Biden Would Like To Interrupt This Post To Talk About Medicare

by evanmcmurry

This morning’s polling generally finds the “bleeding stemmed”—to use the agreed-upon MSM phrase—from Obama’s poor debate performance two weeks ago. In sum, Romney saw an overall lift in his positives, and he’s polling closer to Obama, but Obama has regained a couple point lead in the national polls.

As always, national polls are—not meaningless, exactly, but not revelatory either. Breakdowns in the polling, though, can tell us more: Greg Sargeant has a whole slew of areas in which Romney showed no gain since the debate, especially on the question of which candidate voters think better represents the middle class, providing an opening for Obama in tomorrow’s debate to do nothing but bring up Romney’s 47% remarks.

But in one area, Obama has actually increased his lead since the polls two weeks ago:

Obama’s advantage on who is more trusted to handle Medicare has actually gone up, from 47-43 to 53-38. This was a major topic at both debates, and recall that Joe Biden made a strong appeal to voters to trust their “instincts” on who is better for the program. [Emphasis Sargeant’s]

Recall that before the first presidential debate, Romney was losing serious ground in states like Ohio and Florida, somewhat due to Paul Ryan’s Medicare-killing inclusion on the ticket; since the debate, however, Romney’s rebounded in both states, especially in Florida. If there’s an issue that will remind Floridians why they were leaning against the Romney/Ryan ticket, it’s Medicare, and it looks like Joe Biden got that across loud and clear; in fact, it’s entirely possible that that was Biden’s primary job going into the debate last Thursday, and he smiled so much because he nailed it. It would be nice and poetic if Joe Biden interrupted Romney’s rise as figuratively as he literally interrupted Paul Ryan, and on the same issue, no less.

Can You Follow A Debate From Twitter? (Yes)

by evanmcmurry

Due to circus-dances, I ended up at the Menomena show last night rather than watching the VP debate; I live-streamed the first few minutes, up until Biden yelled “Malarkey!” before I had to run.

But being stuck inside of a ballroom while something important is happening elsewhere ended up doubling as a phenomenological experiment: could I follow a political debate from Twitter? The answer: pretty much. Simply from my phone, I learned that:

  • Biden had gotten Ryan to admit that the latter had asked for the stimulus funds he was now disparaging, and admitted that he did so because they would help create jobs.
  • Ryan got tangled up trying to defend the privatization of Social Security, while Biden scored points for clearly stating that his party would never let people down on SS or Medicare.
  • Biden was absolutely infuriating Republicans by a) constantly interrupting Ryan, and b) smiling all the time.
  • Most important: Biden was winning, even to the point of steamrolling his newly-diminutive opponent.

I stopped checking my phone about halfway through the debate (which coincided with the band’s first song; I’m not rude.*). After the show I watched clips of the debate and read recaps and commentaries, and everything I’d gleamed above held up. Twitter proved to be an accurate source of both primary information (what got said by whom about what) and qualitative analysis (who’s coming across how and why).

What to make of this? I don’t know. I’m certainly not advocating that we stop watching events in real time and start reading Twitter feeds; obviously, I would have much rather watched the thing as it happened. But you don’t always have that option; there are plenty of other obligations—less-voluntary ones, I might add—than going to a show, and one day you’re going to have to be elsewhere when an event you want to follow is transpiring. So it’s good to know that a Twitter feed can compensate (not, mind you, substitute). I walked out of the Bowery Ballroom more informed on an important political event than any other human in there; somebody from the WAH-Twitter-I-Don’t-Like-New-Things-Jonathan-Franzen crowd needs to explain to me why that’s such a bad thing.

* I am rude; I checked the Yanks/Orioles score throughout the whole show.

The Alternate Existences of Jack Kennedy

by evanmcmurry

Perhaps this is a personal tic, but I’ve never internalized that whole Jack-is-a-nickname-for-John thing, primarily because it makes absolutely no sense. A side effect of this mental block: for years, I heard the “I knew Jack Kennedy, you’re no Jack Kennedy” line and assumed it referred to one of the many lesser-known Kennedys who had entered politics. There was John, Bobby, Ted, probably a Chad, and some guy named Jack, who was clearly very respected, maybe because he was Chairman of the Budget Committee or something, and I just hadn’t heard of him because I didn’t know enough about politics.

The same thing happened briefly last night. After one of the many times Biden pointed at Paul Ryan and said, “LIAR!” Ryan namechecked—or tried to namecheck—”Jack Kennedy,” before Biden let him have it. I spent about thirty seconds trying to remember who Jack Kennedy was before I realized they were talking about the 35th President of the United States.

Perhaps, in retrospect, I’m getting confused not because Jack is an absurd nickname for John, but because JFK was president for about six minutes, during which he fucked everything that moved, including an invasion of Cuba. Oddly, the Jack Kennedy in my head is much more accomplished.