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Paul Ryan’s Road Map to Serfdom

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I must confess that before a Tea Party group in Massachusetts asked me to speak to them about Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America,” I had never read it.  Sure, I had a general idea from news media accounts that Rep Ryan had charted a Republican alternative to the insanity of our current fiscal policy.  But the actual plan is a real eye-opener.  Every Conservative and libertarian ought to read it.  Not because it’s any good—in fact it’s a horror—but because it is a perfect object lesson in why we can’t trust Republicans or politicians in general (or either one) to solve our problems.  Rep Ryan has done America a true service in this regard.  The same way Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi have shown us what we don’t want in government, Ryan has shown us what we don’t want from the opposition. 

The “Roadmap” has a lengthy introduction (about half the document) and it’s as good an introduction as one could hope for.  And that is our first lesson: Politicians write terrific introductions! And Ryan’s is as good as any.  He quotes Jefferson to the effect that: 

 “A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.  This is the sum of good government.” 

Of course, the plan Ryan offers up is very much more like Obama’s vision of government than Jefferson’s, but the quote is great! 

He tells us that “This plan is not a slimmer version of the “progressive’ ideology.  It is a true alternative.”  And then Ryan serves up a (slightly) slimmer version of ‘progressive’ ideology. 

Mr. Ryan recalls how great empires of the past have collapsed under the weight of their debt.  You might guess that this will be a prelude to advocating a speedy end to our federal deficit.  But you’d have guessed wrong. 

He waxes nostalgic over the time (1930) when federal spending was only 3.4% of GDP and then advocates increasing federal spending to 24%… permanently. 

Finally, The Wisconsin Republican is eloquent in his warning about the destruction done to the national character by our bloated government: 

“Americans have been lured into viewing government—more than themselves, their families, their communities, and their faith–as their main source of support.  [This] trend drains individual initiative and personal responsibility.  It creates an aversion to risk, sapping the entrepreneurial spirit necessary for growth, innovation and prosperity.” 

Of course, he then goes on to propose zero reductions in government and a few additional responsibilities he would have our government take on. 

Ultimately, Mr. Ryan believes that Republicans can do a better job of managing all the bloated programs with which the Democrats have burdened our federal government.  And, perhaps, they can.  But for most patriotic Americans (The Free Market Warrior included) it is well past the time that such a strategy is feasible.  He wishes to completely avoid the discussion of what government ought to be doing.  It is just that discussion that our country needs, more desperately than anything thing else. 

 So, what is in the Ryan plan? 

It has four parts: 

1.       Health Care.  Here he advocates what could best be called “smarter Pelosi.”  Get rid of all the nonsense that was used to bribe reluctant Democrats to vote against their constituents’ wishes, but keep the basic idea that healthcare is the responsibility of the federal government.  Refundable tax credits are used instead of outright subsidy, but the effect is the same.  Moreover, it completely ignores the real problem with American Healthcare: there’s too much insurance.  Costs will not go down until people start paying their own bills.  That is an immutable law of economics.

2.      Retirement Security.  Ryan correctly proposes to raise the retirement age (although too slowly for my tastes.)  What started out in 1938 as a plan to provide retirement income for the minority of workers who lived longer than average, has grown into a guarantee that everyone gets to spend the last 25% of their life in leisure, paid for by the younger generation of workers.  But he also adds a guarantee that social security equal 120% of the poverty line: a brand new entitlement!  He seems completely averse to the concept of making it voluntary.  Indeed, he allows workers to put a portion of their money in private accounts (a la Bush) which is good, but then insists that the government must approve the funds This is sure to become the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mack of retirement!

3.      Taxes.  Here we are urged to simplify our complex tax laws.  This is a very nice idea but usually means that the writer is not interested in reducing the tax burden at all.  Such is the case here.  Fewer deductions, lower rates, silliness like the Alternative Minimum Tax done away with, but the burden stays the same.  He even replaces the current corporate tax with what is essentially a Value Added Tax.  The “VAT” is the curse of European socialism wherein taxes go up invisibly and more and more money is drained from the economy.  But what about all that talk of “not taking from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned?”  It would seem that Mr. Ryan hoped that no one would read past his introduction.

4.      Job Training.  I was surprised to see this in here at all… especially as one of the four main parts.  Our Congressman complains about the 49 different govern programs that handle ‘job training’.  Does he propose to get rid of any of them?  Of course not!  This is Washington!  He only wants to coordinate them better and give them better ‘metrics!’  Also, he thinks that the government needs to put public service announcements on television reminding Americans that they should get job training!  I think we could divide all Americans into two ideological groups: those who think we have 10% unemployment due to a shortage of public service announcements on late night television reminding us to get job training, and those who think it’s because the government is too insanely big and the taxes are too darn high.  Clearly Mr. Ryan is in the first group.

What’s most striking of all, about “The Roadmap for America’s Future” is what it doesn’t include:  Like spending cuts.  There are none. Earmarks, Department of Energy, National Endowment for the Arts, Grants for Public Television, ‘stimulus’ grants that pay to study the “social milieu of male prostitutes in Thailand”.  It all stays.  Mr. Ryan is absolutely silent on the issue of the Century: cutting the budget. 

Does he get rid of the deficit?  No.  Does he shrink the deficit? No.  In the short term, he just reduces it rate of increase!  When do we get a balanced budget under this “true alternative”: according to Mr. Ryan’s own numbers his deficit peeks in 2044 and the budget gets balanced in 2060! 

My readers under 30 (who might live long enough to see that great day brought to us by Mr. Ryan’s ‘Roadmap’) will be interested to see what he says next: .  “Congress should seriously consider reducing taxes when surpluses are achieved [i.e. 2060].”

If you think, as I do, that Mr. Ryan’s plan is a joke.  I believe that that is the punch line. 

We can and we must really change our government and restore it to what our Founder’s intended.  In the process we can return to Americans the hard earned fruits of their labors, even as we balance the budget (how about next year?)  Mr. Ryan has shown us how not to achieve that.

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Loren Spivack (The Free Market Warrior) is the author of the recent published book “The New Democrat” (OBAMAPARODY.COM)  He also provides a seminar in “Economic Literacy” to Republican and Tea Party Groups across the country.

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