Moment of Deceit

A few years ago, Mark told me that it’s easy to be a blogger on the west coast: wait until 9 pm Pacific time, look at David Brooks’ column, and point out how idiotic it is.  He was right; it IS easy.  But today, it’s necessary.

Today (or tomorrow?), Brooks, who favored the extensions of all Bush-era tax cuts, and opposed the Affordable Care Act because it didn’t cut costs enough although he also opposed its cost-cutting measures, now hails Paul Ryan’s new budget in a column ironically entitled “Moment of Truth.”  The column praises Ryan as “courageous” and “setting the standard for seriousness.”

Where do you start?

How about in the first paragraph, which lauds the Simpson-Bowles plan and conveniently neglects to mention that Ryan opposed it.  Then:

The Ryan budget will put all future arguments in the proper context: The current welfare state is simply unsustainable and anybody who is serious, on left or right, has to have a new vision of the social contract.

No, that is not the proper context.  The proper context is 1) that if we ended the Bush tax cuts, bringing us back to the socialistic 1990’s; and 2) stopped fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we could get a great deal of the budget under control.  Moreover, every other advanced democracy is able to cover its entire population and control costs better than we do.  That is the proper context.  Then:

He would reform the tax code along the Simpson-Bowles lines, but without the tax increases.

Wrong again: Ryan’s roadmap increases taxes on the middle class and guts Medicaid and Medicare in order to pay for further cuts in taxes for the very rich.  Then:

It’s amazing that a budget chairman could include tax policy in his proposal, since it’s normally under the purview of the Ways and Means Committee.

Well, no, it’s not amazing at all: this was specifically designed by the Republican leadership to allow Ryan to propose whatever he wanted with special rules greasing through the budget process.  Then:

Instead of assuming open-ended future costs, the government will give you a sum of money (starting at an amount equal to what the government now spends) and a regulated menu of insurance options from which to choose.

From which to choose from whom?  Private insurers, of course; and we know how easy the individual health insurance market is for seniors.  Then:

The Ryan budget will please governors of both parties by turning Medicaid into a block grant — giving states more flexibility.

No it won’t, if any of those governors actually would like to, you know, ensure that their populations are insured.  If states actually want more flexibility, then they can get waivers from HHS.  So far, there are 451 such waivers.  What these will do is allow those governors who want to cut people off to be able to do so more easily. 

Even Brooks’ supposed concessions are mendacious.  Thus:

The Republicans still have no alternative to the Democratic health care reform.

Yes they do: it’s called increasing the number of uninsured and underinsured people in this country by several tens of millions.  For Republicans, having health insurance is like having any other commodity: if you can afford it, you do, and if you can’t, you can’t.

Enough.  Finally:

Paul Ryan has grasped reality with both hands. He’s forcing everybody else to do the same.

Here, Brooks is finally right.  Ryan has grasped that reality, and shoved it into Ayn Rand’s wet dream.  Apparently, David Brooks is already there, waiting for him.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

17 thoughts on “Moment of Deceit”

  1. The most telling aspect of the Ryan plan is that it does not balance the budget. Who is “serious” now?

  2. One very encouraging sign, however, is the almost unanimous beating Brooks’ readers are giving him in the comments section. I only made it through the first page, but all 25 comments there take him to the woodshed for being so stupid or so much of GOP shill and hater of the middle-class that perhaps more Americans that I would have dared to think are completely fed up with the bullshit coming out of this Congress. A little 1798 would not be a bad thin right about now…

  3. Update – there ARE only 25 comments so far. Brooksie is bating a big .000 with his readers today. Hopefully that’s a portent.

  4. Ryan is wrong- he only cuts $6 TRILLION in debt from Obama’s projected $10 TRILLION debt over the next 10 years. This is $4 trillion too little. My children and grandchildren deserve a fair shot at a future, and I don’t care how tough it is going to be on us, it is morally wrongg and selfish to whine about these spending cuts when we are not living within our means.

    Revenue isn’t the problem- the federal government is collecting nearly the same amount as it has in the past- spending is the problem. Cut spending.

  5. Mr. “Teacher” I sure hope you are retired so you can’t do any more damage. Their “plan” doesn’t really cut $6 Trillion, all it does is cut taxes. Haven’t you yet realized the republicans only represent the rich? They don’t care about you or your children or grandchildren.

  6. “For Republicans, having health insurance is like having any other commodity: if you can afford it, you do, and if you can’t, you can’t.”

    The Republican worldview is much broader than that. Supply AND Demand.

    A government program like Medicare, which is cheaper for the consumer is an affront, because it deprives entrepreneurs of an opportunity to make money by providing a more expensive, less generous service. Ditto for direct student lending. Ditto for environmental protection and labor laws, if it comes to that. I could make a very long list, but the theme is consistent: Republicans do not like government programs or regulations, which impinge on the desire of business folks to make money, even if it would be, basically, from a value-less scam or shameless exploitation of the vulnerable.

    Medicare is an affront to Republicans, both because it keeps insurance companies out of a huge market, where they could skim 15% or 20%, but also because Medicare keeps a heavy hand on the fees charged by service providers.

  7. Abolish Medicare now!

    I want to see these pucker-faced teabaggers suffer. And I don’t want to have to wait 10 years to enjoy the sight. Let the pain begin. Not because I give a fug about Conservative Teacher’s children and grandchildren. That’s a crock of conservative whiny-ass crap. Really: Buck up man. Dry you Bohener tears. Your dumb children will get their fair share of pain with global warming. That’s their boot heel in the face. Your politics has earned that miserableness for them. And that seems fair to me. But let’s abolish Medicare right now. These pucker-faced teabaggers deserve to get what they voted for: Death panels.

  8. Comments have now been closed on Brooks’ column. There are 64, and I didn’t see one that wasn’t sharply critical.
    I don’t know what the NYT policy on closing comments is. Does anyone else here know?

  9. Why doesn’t any commentator call these hacks out for poor-mouthing our nation? “We’re broke, we’re broke.”

    It’s called poor-mouthing. A variety of whining. It’s contemptible and unpatriotic.

  10. A conservative teacher says:

    “Revenue isn’t the problem- the federal government is collecting nearly the same amount as it has in the past- spending is the problem. Cut spending.”

    This is entirely incorrect. Last year the Federal government collected 14% of GDP in taxes. The lowest amount in sixty years. The typical percentage is around 18-21%.

  11. If ACT really cared about the deficit and our children, then ACT would support a carbon tax to help save the ecology we dearly love.

  12. Brooks is right – from his perspective – when he writes “The current welfare state is simply unsustainable”, because neither he nor his compatriots want to pay for such a thing.

    Has anybody noticed that Brooks has lost his political cool lately? He’s banging the drum for hard-right policies, which he didn’t do before.

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