HE COULDA BEEN A CONTENDERThe tendency to emotionalize the ongoing Battle of the Budgets, which has shifted into high gear in anticipation of a government shutdown and the roll out of a Republican scheme to slash several trillion big ones from the federal budget, certainly gets in the way of rational discourse, whatever that may be.
But I, for one, get pretty worked up when the GOP marches ever more relentlessly into the fiscal future with a master plan to further squeeze the disabled, the elderly, the poor and . . . oh yeah, the middle class while offering even bigger lollipops to the rich and big business. This is not to say that entitlement programs don't need to go on a diet, but to balance the budget on the backs of the people elderly and needy kids -- who are the primary beneficiaries of Medicare and Medicaid -- without asking for sacrifices from everyone across the board is cruel.
Yet you aren't hearing that message, at least not loud and clear.
This is because President Obama, shadow boxing to and fro in another of his puzzling leadership failures, has ceded the megaphone to the opposition, while House Democrats have been cowardly in their refusal to take on the entitlements morass head on. This has had the effect of ceding the floor to Representative Paul Ryan and his budgetary posse.
Ryan, while a refreshing change from the sob sister party leadership in style and manner, is targeting the Have A Little Somethings and Have Nots under a "Path to Prosperity" slogan for a multi-trillion dollar, 10-year plan that is the epitome of extremism, ironically a brush that the GOP has continuously tried to tar Obama with.
There is not even the faintest whiff of shared sacrifice in the plan, and while "Path to Prosperity" may be a snappy slogan, it is perversely misleading.
If the goal of Ryan's plan is deficit reduction, it would logically include at least modest tax increases to help shrink the budget gap, but the plan cuts taxes by substantial margins, especially for the richest of the rich.
A review of why letting the rich off the hook (they'd get 25 percent tax cuts under Ryan's plan) is a pig in a poke:
When Ronald Reagan tried it, the federal government incurred more debt than all of the American presidents who came before him, combined.
George Bush. of course, did a 180-degree turn while inconveniently waging two wars, and the result is the sea of red ink that Obama inherited and Republicans now want to get out from under by humbugging everyone but the wealthy.
Where the Ryan plan comes completely off the tracks is in stating that a (very) happy consequence of it is that the unemployment rate, currently hovering at just below 9 percent as the U.S. shakes off the residuals of the Bush Recession, will fall to 2.8 percent by 2021.
That is flapdoodle because economists pretty much agree across the board that the "natural" unemployment rate is 5 percent, and Ryan relies on the hyper-partisan Heritage Foundation to cook his unemployment numbers while ignoring the elephant in the room: The 25 million people unemployed or underemployed because of the Bush Recession.
While Republicans don't necessary want to deny the Tiny Tims their crutches, the upshot of the plan is to impose additional hardships the people who can afford it least, while the savings gleaned from screwing these people will be given to the rich and big corporations, and the plan also would further free Wall Street of regulatory safeguards.
All of this makes Ebenezer Scrooge analogies entirely appropriate. In fact, Republicans must regret that the greedy old money lender is not available to run for president in 2012, but then like Obama he has a funny name and wasn't born in the U.S.