War on Moderation

The Ryan budget reveals the Right's extremism

Political moderates and on-the-fencers have had it easy up to now on budget issues. They could condemn "both sides," and insist on the need for "courage" in tackling the deficit. Thanks to Rep. Paul Ryan's budget and the Republicans' maximalist stance in negotiations to avert a government shutdown, the days of straddling are over.

Ryan's truly outrageous proposal, built on heaping sacrifice onto the poor, slashing scholarship aid to college students, and bestowing benefits on the rich, ought to force middle-of-the-roaders to take sides. No one who is even remotely moderate can possibly support what Ryan has in mind.

And please, let's dispense with the idea that Ryan is courageous in offering his design. There is nothing courageous about asking for give-backs from the least advantaged and least powerful in our society. It takes no guts to demand a lot from groups that have little to give, and tend to vote against your party anyway. And there is nothing daring about a conservative Republican delivering yet more benefits to the wealthiest people in our society, the sort who privately finance the big ad campaigns to elect conservatives to Congress.

Ryan gives the game away by including the repeal of financial reform in his "budget" plan. What does this have to do with fiscal balance? Welcome to the Wall Street Protection Act of 2011.

Oh, yes, and this budget has nothing to do with deficit reduction. Ryan would hack away at expenditures for the poor. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates he gets about two-thirds of his $4.3 trillion in actual cuts from programs for low-income Americans. Note that this $4.3 trillion almost exactly matches the $4.2 trillion he proposes in tax cuts over a decade. Welcome to the Bah Humbug Act of 2011.

But you'd expect a progressive to feel this way. What's striking is that Ryan is pushing moderates to stand up for a government that will have enough money to perform the functions now seen as basic in the twenty-first century. These notably include helping those who can't afford health insurance to get decent medical care, a goal Ryan would have the government abandon, slowly but surely.

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairs of the deficit commission and the heroes of the budget-cutting center, put out a statement saying some nice things about the idea of the Ryan budget. They called it "serious, honest, straightforward," even though there is much about its accounting that is none of those.

But then they got to the real point, declaring themselves "concerned that it falls short of the balanced, comprehensive approach" needed for bipartisan accord because it "largely exempts defense spending from reductions and would not apply any of the savings from eliminating or reducing tax expenditures as part of tax reform to deficit reduction."

Ryan, they argued, "relies on much larger reductions in domestic discretionary spending than does the commission proposal, while also calling for savings in some safety net programs—cuts which would place a disproportionately adverse effect on certain disadvantaged populations."

This is much like what I said, with an added layer of diplomacy. When even deficit hawks begin choking, however politely, on a proposal whose main motivation is ideological, you know there is an opening for a coalition between moderates and progressives on behalf of sane, decent government.

The Republican approach to shutdown talks should reinforce this possibility. Democrats have nearly given away the store to avoid a crackup, yet Republican leaders, under pressure from their right wing, have continued to ask for more and more and more. My word, even President Barack Obama has finally gotten impatient.

However the shutdown saga ends, the negotiating styles of the two sides ought to tell moderates that they can no longer pretend that the two ends of our politics are equally "extreme." No, conservatives are the ones who've been radicalized. The Ryan budget is definitive evidence of this.

It is conservatives who would transform our government from a very modestly compassionate instrument into a machine dedicated to expanding existing privileges while doing as little as possible for the marginalized and the aspiring—those who, with a little help from government, might find it a bit easier to reach for better lives.

Moderation involves a balance between government and the private sector, between risk and security, between our respect for incentives and our desire for greater fairness. The war against moderation has begun. Will moderates join the battle? 

(c) 2011, Washington Post Writers Group


Related: Class Warfare, by E. J. Dionne Jr.

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Forget the lying projections. What happened when the taxes on the rich were lowered after the Republican ELECTION VICTORY IN nOV.2010

The retail stores that catered to the rich had their stocks surge . Abercrombie ANF went up 20 points [40%].. Nordstrom's JNW went up sis points [18%]

Target tgt [for the middle/lower classes] went DOWN 10 points [15% Walmart WMT went  DOWN 6 [12%]

At least we now know that the rich are getting richer and the rest of us are being laughed at , at the Hampton LI parties.

O! suckers . as you write a check to IRS next week know thw GE pays NOTHING[want a rebate too on past years]

  

Wikipedia informs that Paul Ryan is a Catholic.  Interesting that he doesn't seem to be acquainted with Catholic social teaching.  Guess they missed that part in Janesville. 

 

It's Lent.  Maybe he'll find some metanoia along the way to Easter.

We of the Progressive bent are sitting in an ever deepening pool of self-delusion; were it otherwise, there would be little point in providing a detailed critique of this latest chapter in a 30 year saga to wrest the American democracy from the hands of anyone who is not obscene in their wealth and implaccable greed.

It is time for Progressives to let the sticker shock sink in - if there were really political moderates in this country they would not have stayed home in droves from the election in 2010; they would not have sprinkled the equivalent of political holy water on President Obama in 2008 and then gone back to whatever inane "reality show" passes for their engagement in a difficult and challenging world; they would not be hiding behind the kind of outrage one only finds in the audience of the Wrestling Channel.

Ryan certainly is the kind of Catholic that the USCCB and the Vatican endorse much more often than they dispute. Lay Catholics had better step up or we are in for a dark, dark century or two.

We do not live in priviledged times, we are not exempt from our indifference or complaints of headaches at having to be vigiliant and prudent in protecting the rights of the 99.3% of us "less fortunate" ones who would be directly robbed by Ryan's blueprint.

And an Irish Catholic, no less, if we are to infer from his last name. One has to wonder how much he knows about the history of the country of his ancestry? Someone should make available to him a copy of Rev. John Hughes famous sermon in 1847 "On the Antecedent Causes of the Irish Famine" from which I offer the following extracts:

"I know that no living man is accountable for the system of which I am about to complain; it is older than we are, it is the invisible but all pervading divinity of the Fiscal, the unseen ruler of the temporal affairs of this world. Kings and Emperors are but its prime ministers, premiers and parliaments but its servants in livery; money is the symbol of its worship, we are all its slaves, without any power to emancipate ourselves; the dead and dying in Ireland are its victims.

It will not be disputed, I presume, that the present system of social and political economy resolves itself, when analyzed, into a primary element of pure selfishness. The principle that acts, the mainspring that sets all its vast and intricate machinery in motion is self-interest; whether that interest assume a national form in the commercial rivalship of States, or an individual form in the pursuit, the industry, and enterprise of private persons. The conqueror, indeed, carries off great spoils from the contest; but his enjoyment of them would be disturbedif he could only hear the cries of the wounded and the dying who have fallen in battle.  Plus ca change, etc.

Irene Whelen wonders how an Irish Catholic like Ryan can forget from whence he came . It's easy;  we recall Reagan came from the lower classes, was an young adult Democrat until he started to eat and associate with his 'betters'. An ambitious Irish charmer has an easy path to change his values.   Trying to fit in, will be the catalyst for the most transforming of changes. As Thomas Aquinas said 'You become what you know'  

Republican politicians, and the moneychangers that have come to own the GOP, appear as the biggest bunch of freeloaders in history.  They would have curent citizens more lax in paying their way than the slowest-to-draw of dinner acquaintances, or a dine-and-dash petty thief sticking someone else with the tab.  In this case it is the coming generations that are being left with a rotting and rusting national infrastructure, a trashed environment , families that cannot afford their health care, shortchanged educations, jobs moved to exploit cheap labor in low-standard-of-living countries,  the destruction of organized labor’s defense of the middle class, deployment of children of working-class and unemployed Americans to die protecting a global oil empire, the roadblock of a timely move to renewable energy, blowing the 4.5 trillion dollars that  government owes to Social Security and other trust funds, and leaving  behind nothing of value and the largest debt in history that is money run off into the pockets of wealthy moneychangers.

These Republican politicians go further than self-centered elders that blow the next generation’s family inheritance.  They mash the seed corn of the future into booze, swill it down  and now drunk with power they entertain themselves with tipsy-dipsy legislation that makes pratfall-comedy of people’s public business.  To wit in Iowa alone: “the crazy, give-a-handgun-to-a-schizophrenic bill,” empower publicly licensed business to discriminate against people they suspect o be gay, decide who can marry whom, protect animal abusers, turn Iowa’s highest court into a right-wing religious tribunal of inquisition, make sewers of our rivers and stream, and sprinkle around the state some atomic plants awaiting future disasters from which they plan to be long gone.  And after they have had their fill, the young people left can sing “Turn out the lights, the party is over.” 

Of course, nationally these monumental deadbeats should certainly take credit for preparing for that kind of no-future future with their just concluded fire drill of pretending to shut down the federal government.  However, it might have been nice if they had beforehand announced, “THIS IS ONLY A DRILL.”

Societal numbing is our main disease. People have become immune to moral thought and completely engaged in texting, idolizing and dancing with some star. They have no compunction or empathy about the antics of the rich and famous; only disdain for those who are victims of the organized effort to reduce us all to indignity and abject poverty. Meanwhile our bishops and other church leader simply remain silent as lambs.

The seven practices of charity toward our neighbor, based on Christ’s prophecy of the Last Judgment, that will determine each person’s final destiny was taught from the Baltimore Catechism:    1.     Feed the hungry    2.     Give drink to the thirsty    3.     Clothe the naked    4.     Shelter the homeless    5.     Visit the sick    6.     Visit those in prison    7.     Bury the deadIs it the role of government to be the essential and probably soon the only source of Charity as the Obama administration plans to reduce the tax credits for charitable contributions for those who provide the most: mosthttp://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/the-war-on-philanthrop... ?This would have a serious impact on the finacial ability of all religious affiliated charities to carry out their good works.When does confiscatory tax rates in the guise of 'for the common good' on already stressed wage earners become a challenge to the ability of religious and non-government charitable organizations to carry out their own charitable functions?It appears that Catholic Church and other religious goups do not even recognize that Obama plans to reduce or eliminate religious organizations and non-government groups, from their historic roles and replace them with socialistic government run programs.For those who claim that Jesus was a big-government socialist provider with regard to helping those in need and reducing individuals personal responsibility to only "Love the Neighbor' and replacing it with government programs is a misreading of His message. Jesus Christ made the point "to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" with no guidelines as to how the Romans were to spend the tax monies."For you will have the poor always with you" Matthew 26.11 and nowhere in the NewTestament does Jesus Christ lay the responsibility for caring for the poor, the sick the hungry or thirsty, the homeless or any oppressed people on any governmental body. He did not cite King Herod, the priests of the temple, the local politicians or the Roman powers as the source of Charity. He made it an individual responsibility time after time in His sermons, in His parables and in His own acts. The Good Samaritan was not an example of "Love thy neighbor" because he stopped at the inn to make a 911 call but because he acted, providing aid, comfort and financial assistance to his neighbor. Jesus Christ's teachings cannot be used be used to support states becoming the major or only source of charitable acts.

One wonders how Mr.Dionne will treat President Obama's upcoming about face on cutting entitlements which was announced yesterday?

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About the Author

E. J. Dionne Jr. is a syndicated columnist, professor of government at Georgetown University, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book is Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (Bloomsbury Press).