The Democratic budget response to Paul Ryan’s dystopian Randian vision

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

You may have missed it the other day when the media villagers were all in thrall over their Pope-a-Palooza coverage, but the Senate Democrats released a budget plan that is modest and targeted to address our immediate crisis — a jobs crisis — in an economy that has been slow to recover due conservative austerity measures imposed by the Tea-Publican economic terrorists in Congress.

There were actually two Democratic budgets released this week, the first by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on behalf of the Senate Democratic leadership, and the second by the Progressive Caucus, which offered a bold progressive vision for the country.

Both plans are in response to the radical dystopian Randian vision offered by the GOP's alleged boy genius and Flimflam Man, Ayn Rand fanboy Paul Ryan (R-WI), which has been almost uniformly derided as "not serious" and a "cruel joke." Even Chris Wallace of FAUX News immediately dismissed it with "it's not going to happen." 

Paul Krugman notes today, After the Flimflam – NYTimes.com:

The good news is that Mr. Ryan’s thoroughly unconvincing policy-wonk act seems, finally, to have worn out its welcome. In 2011, his budget was initially treated with worshipful respect, which faded only slightly as critics pointed out the document’s many absurdities. This time around, quite a few pundits and reporters have greeted his release with the derision it deserves.

And, with that, let’s turn to the serious proposals.

Unless you’re a very careful news reader, you’ve probably heard about only one of these proposals, the one released by Senate Democrats. And let’s be clear: By comparison with the Ryan plan, and for that matter with a lot of what passes for wisdom in our nation’s capital, this is a very reasonable plan indeed.

As many observers have pointed out, the Senate Democratic plan is conservative with a small “c”: It avoids any drastic policy changes. In particular, it steers away from draconian austerity, which is simply not needed given ultralow U.S. borrowing costs and relatively benign medium-term fiscal projections.

True, the Senate plan calls for further deficit reduction, through a mix of modest tax increases and spending cuts. (Incidentally, the tax increases still fall well short of those called for in the Bowles-Simpson plan, which Washington, for some reason, treats as something close to holy scripture.) But it avoids large short-run spending cuts, which would hobble our recovery at a time when unemployment is still disastrously high, and it even includes a modest amount of stimulus spending.

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After all, if sharp spending cuts are a bad thing in a depressed economy — which they are — then the plan really should be calling for substantial though temporary spending increases. It doesn’t.

But there’s a plan that does: the proposal from the Congressional Progressive Caucustitled “Back to Work,” which calls for substantial new spending now, temporarily widening the deficit, offset by major deficit reduction later in the next decade, largely though not entirely through higher taxes on the wealthy, corporations and pollution.

I’ve seen some people describe the caucus proposal as a “Ryan plan of the left,” but that’s unfair. There are no Ryan-style magic asterisks, trillion-dollar savings that are assumed to come from unspecified sources; this is an honest proposal. And “Back to Work” rests on solid macroeconomic analysis, not the fantasy “expansionary austerity” economics — the claim that slashing spending in a depressed economy somehow promotes job growth rather than deepening the depression — that Mr. Ryan continues to espouse despite the doctrine’s total failure in Europe.

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[I]t’s refreshing to see someone break with the usual Washington notion that political “courage” means proposing that we hurt the poor while sparing the rich. No doubt the caucus plan is too audacious to have any chance of becoming law; but the same can be said of the Ryan plan.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post did an initial analysis of The Senate Democrats’ vague, conservative budget that he had to walk back today, What I got wrong about the Senate Democrats’ budget:

A conversation with a Senate Democratic aide Thursday persuaded me that I shortchanged Sen. Patty Murray’s budget in an important way.

On Wednesday, I criticized Murray’s budget because neither its spending cuts nor its tax increases are specified. But to evaluate it in terms of its spending cuts and tax increases, the aide argued, is to miss Murray’s point, which is that Ryan’s framework, in which deficit reduction stands above all, is the wrong framework.

The highest priority of the Senate Budget is to create the conditions for job creation, economic growth, and prosperity built from the middle out, not the top down,” writes Murray.

The Senate Democrats’ budget expresses this principle in two ways. First, there’s a $100 billion infrastructure package to create jobs. Second, the slower path of deficit reduction, and the heavy reliance on tax increases, allows Murray (D-Wash.) to protect education, research, and various other economically important investments — as well as expanding a few programs along the way.

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The approach stands in stark contrast to the Ryan budget. Wednesday, I wrote that if we got education, infrastructure and health care right, many of our economic problems would solve themselves. Ryan’s budget requires deep cuts in education and infrastructure, and he repeals the Affordable Care Act, interrupting both the efforts to cover almost all Americans and to control costs across the health-care system. The sequester, too, does terrible damage to education and infrastructure. Compared to these alternatives, Murray’s budget is very protective of these priorities.

Even so, Murray’s investment agenda is modest. Her jobs plan is far less than what’s envisioned in the American Jobs Act. Her education plan nods toward, but never quite endorses, universal pre-K. There’s nothing specific about bringing down the costs of higher education. Her health-care plan embraces the Affordable Care Act, but doesn’t add anything to it.

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[T]he result is that while Murray prioritizes protecting both the recovery and key investments, this isn’t the jobs-and-investment version of the Ryan plan — it’s not a bold or creative document to deal with our severe economic problems, but a tentative document that replaces the sequester, stabilizes the debt and makes a few targeted investments, all with the intention of creating a budget path more hospitable to recovery. I’d like to see it go much farther in that direction, but I erred Wednesday in saying so little about the steps it does, in fact, take.

There is, however, a recently released budget that serves as the bold, jobs-and-investment version of the Ryan plan. But more on that later.

(To be continued).

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