Wednesday, April 6, 2011

You Cannot Be Serious

Yesterday, Paul Ryan released his budget plan and, in case you haven't heard, it's serious.

David Brooks:
[Ryan's] proposal will set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion.
Mitch Daniels:
The House budget resolution is the first serious proposal produced by either party to deal with the overriding issue of our time.
The Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Ryan's budget rollout is an important political and policy moment because it is the most serious attempt to reform government in at least a generation.
Jacob Weisberg:
[M]ore than anyone else in politics, Rep. Ryan has made a serious attempt to grapple with the long-term fiscal issue the country faces.
The Dallas Morning News:

Paul Ryan isn’t always right, and he may not be right about everything now.

What he is, though, is serious.
Andrew Sullivan
Ryan's proposal, whatever you think of it, is serious.
Ross Douthat
You do not have to like the long-term budget that Paul Ryan and the House Republicans have released this morning. There’s plenty in the plan for liberals to hate, moderates to doubt, and conservatives to question. But you do have to respect it.
Hmmm. When Russ Douthat orders me to do something, I snap to it. So, with the utmost respect, I set out to find what made the plan so serious. And what I discovered is that the Ryan plan is serious because it doesn't sugarcoat the fact that we need to sacrifice. Here's Sullivan:
[T]he good news is that we finally have a political party being honest about what it takes to avoid falling off a fiscal cliff. It means sacrifice. [His emphasis this time.]
I get it. This isn't one of those have-your-cake-and-it-eat-it-too budgets that the unwashed masses love so much. It's a tell-it-like-it-is budget. It's time for all us -- the oil companies, the banker who wipes his ass with TARP money, the defense contractors, the guy who's been unemployed for two years, the public sector workers with Swiss bank accounts, the seniors paying for elective cancer surgeries with their grandchildren's college funds -- to realize that the party is over.

Ryan's budget is serious because it spreads the pain across all of the above. Well, almost. The oil companies, the defense contractors, and the banker who wipes his ass with TARP money won't actually have to sacrifice anything, unless you consider the embarrassment of getting yet another tax cut while the empire crumbles a sacrifice. (Have you heard the awful things people have been saying about GE lately?) Ryan's plan to address healthcare isn't exactly equitable either, with the elderly and poor getting much worse care and private insurers getting a juicy piece out of the Medicare pie.

And some of our serious pundits are a little uncomfortable about the way the actual sacrifice get divvied up. Sullivan whispers his concern that the plan imposes "major sacrifices for the poor and elderly, while exempting the wealthy from any sacrifice at all." Weisberg wishes Ryan hadn't included those darn tax cuts.

But doesn't damper their enthusiasm for the plan. Nor does the fact that Ryan somehow forgot to include the defense cuts that both Sullivan and Ryan think should be in the mix. Because who's fucking whom, who gets invited to the party, and whose belt is actually going to get tightened -- these are juvenile questions. And right now we're having a serious adult conversation. Doesn't that make you feel better?

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