COMMENTARY | It is an amazing thing, the way conservatives talk about Paul Ryan like he’s some kind of numbers-crunching genius. The problem is: He’s crunching the numbers to make himself, his political party, and his budget plans look better than they are, or so says Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” which has been nominated for five Emmy Awards (including one for Outstanding Writing in a Variety Series).
To cut to the chase: In a segment of the show’s ongoing election coverage, “Democalypse 2012, ” Stewart paints Rep. Paul Ryan as a present-day fiscal conservative with a non-fiscal conservative past, someone who altered his profligate wastefulness during the time the Democrats controlled Congress. In short, the newly tapped Republican vice presidential candidate appears to be a hypocrite.
Stewart makes his case by highlighting a sound bite of Ryan criticizing the trillions of dollars of publicly held debt, blaming it on the Obama administration, which is misleading. Stewart addresses this by going over several programs in past decade that have increased public debt tremendously. Things like: the Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, massive increased defense spending, reauthorization of the Bush tax cuts, the Bush Medicare bill, and the TARP bank bailout bill. In a pie graph entitled “Surplus To Debt Swing,” the pieces of legislation appear to have contributed to the swing by about 65 percent.
Stewart then asks what kind of “irresponsible lunatic” would have voted for those pieces of legislation. Of course the answer is: Paul Ryan.
And strangely enough, Ryan is hawking a budget plan, endorsed by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, that economic experts like Nobel laureate Paul Krugman say will only increase national deficit and decrease the tax burden of someone like Romney, a multi-millionaire, to less than 1 percent (0.82 percent, to be precise ). So just where will the taxes be assessed to make up for the enormous loss of internal revenue that such breaks afford the 1 percent and most wealthy? The already hard-hit middle class and the poor, who will see tax credits eliminated, watch massive spending cuts take place on public programs by the cutting of discretionary spending, and possibly endure drastic revisions and cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
But one thing Jon Stewart does not point out with his pie chart and verbal takedown of the recently converted austerity preacher that Ryan has become: Like most converts, Ryan’s zeal takes him a bit too far. Stewart reveals Ryan as a convert of convenience, a hypocrite. But what if that conversion and zeal is not just a contrivance, a mask constructed for the moment, for a particular time and place of political convenience?
Actual converts, in an effort to over-compensate for the past, overreach in the present and adversely affect the future. The recently elected austerity-minded governments in Europe are finding the returns for their drastic programs of spending cuts and lower taxes only add to the overall debt problems plaguing their individual and regional economies, not to mention putting a drag on the world’s economy. And if Romney-Ryan get a chance to implement their stated plans for economic overhaul, it would appear that the United States could be headed toward a second debilitating recession.
That is, unless Ryan and his fellow “converts” are truly just a bunch of self-serving hypocrites.
The problem is: convert or hypocrite, it does not appear that Ryan has the solutions for the fiscal and national deficits that he says he does. But as long as he and Romney can keep voters distracted by blaming the country’s various debts on the Obama administration — which, admittedly, has added considerably to the deficits — they just might get a chance to sign into legislation (technically, Romney would do the signing as president) some of those measures that Ryan says are the way out of crushing national debt and fiscal irresponsibility. But just how will decreasing the tax burden on the millionaires, who pay the lion’s share of taxes that make up the revenue that pays for things that government does, to almost zero while the poor and middle class, whose spending is the foundation of the American economy, absorb bigger hits to their household budgets decrease the deficits? That kind of numbers-crunching just doesn’t add up — unless you’re a politician trying to get elected or re-elected.