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Paul Ryan’s “New Politics of Sadism” – Who Will Stand to Oppose It?

While we’re all waiting to see what happens with the 2011 budget, I didn’t realize that Paul Ryan had fast-tracked his 2012 budget, taking it through the Budget Committee this week in a markup that lasted all of one day. Erik Wasson writes that the bill would get a vote next week, but House Republicans are supposed to be on a two-week recess, so that may not take place. But at some point, Republicans in the House look like they’re on a collision course with an on-the-record vote to eliminate Medicare and cripple Medicaid.

This is not at all unusual. In fact, it’s just what Republicans do.

Some people celebrate good fortune by visiting Disneyland or Las Vegas. Republicans often commemorate success by beating themselves bloody against the foundations of America’s social safety net.

The sweeping budget blueprint that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released this week marked the fifth time since 1980 that Republicans have followed an electoral breakthrough by attempting to restructure Medicare or Social Security. Each of the previous efforts ended in tears, largely because the GOP’s approach failed to attract support beyond its core coalition. Ryan’s plan, by seeking to end Medicare as it now exists, reprises the same risk—at a time when the GOP is growingly increasingly reliant on votes from white seniors.

To describe Ryan’s budget as “brave,” the endless drivel from the punditocracy, would be to describe all these other efforts as brave as well, and not just an ideological inevitability of a party that can’t stand government and can’t be bothered about poverty or our responsibility to the aged. This is a budget that forces seniors to spend their entire income on health insurance – not even the care. We’re supposed to call the new politics of sadism “brave.”

We are in an age dominated on one side by the New Politics of Sadism. Hurtful policies are enacted, not because of any logical benefit they might bring, but specifically because they hurt people the Republicans want to hurt. The thoroughgoing abandonment of the notion of a political commonwealth, cheered on by degrees since the elevation of Ronald Reagan and whatever ideas people could cram into his empty head, has reached the point among American conservatives where it is now the kind of faith you find in the most unshakable of perversions. It manifests itself everywhere. It’s expressed politely by people like that intolerable foof, David Brooks, who’s never taken a position in his life that cost him so much as a dinner invitation. On the radio, and on cable news, it’s expressed crudely by people who are far more honest about their contempt for their fellow citizens […]

Paul Ryan is a thoroughgoing fraud. He went through high school and most of college on Social Security survivor benefits after his father’s death. He voted for almost all the Bush programs — including both off-the-books wars — that ballooned the deficit he so piously condemns now. And this week, as he rolled out his lunatic conception of a federal budget, Paul Ryan produced the definitive statement of his political philosophy: There are those Americans who deserve to live and those Americans who don’t. Period. All of the former are very, very wealthy. All of the latter are poor, or struggling, or old. Paul Ryan believes the true mission of government is to bring as much pain to the parasites as it can because, by doing so, it can liberate the genius of those people who deserve to live. When Paul Ryan dreams of a free nation, it is one in which the seventy-two-year-old spouses of seventy-five-year-old patients are free to go out and shop in a rigged insurance market for the $100,000-plus they’re going to need over a lifetime of tending to that patient. If they insisted on feeding themselves, and even risking the odd vacation, over the course of their working lives and they failed to anticipate what might befall them, then the spouse is going to have to starve and the patient is just going to have to sit there in his own filth, until market forces determine that they should die.

You could alternatively go with Matt Taibbi on this, but I think Esquire out-Taibbi’d him. For the less Gonzo take, there’s Paul Krugman. The kicker to all this is that the Senate Republicans have forwarded a balanced budget amendment so draconian that, if passed, this impossibly cruel Ryan budget would be unconstitutional.

Now, I know all these arguments are bracing – and in themselves evidence that Ryan’s proposal has already helped move the debate to more earnest grounds. I mean, obviously. But Democrats have a choice to make, outside of Andrew Sullivan’s fever dreams. The choice will cement their place in history.

On Monday, as Ryan’s budget was leaked, Obama formally announced his reelection campaign in a video and email. The announcement was about strategy, fundraising, and a call for volunteers. The president declined to address this epic national debate about the future of government in protecting the beleaguered middle class.

But what is the next election about? Anything close to the Ryan budget would destroy not only Obama’s own aspirations for America, but repeal core, Democratic-sponsored social insurance anchors dating back to the Great Society and the New Deal […]

Public opinion largely sides with the Democrats’ defense of popular social programs. But that support will remain latent unless a national debate is focused on something that only presidential leadership can achieve. As long as the debate is about who will cut more, the definition of responsible budgeting shifts steadily right, and the Tea Party wins.

And we’re seeing how well that’s working in the CR fight.

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David Dayen

David Dayen