Dick Polman, 3/13/2013 [Archive]

Paul Ryan's Fantasy Yearnings

Paul Ryan's Fantasy Yearnings

By Dick Polman

It speaks volumes about the Republican fantasy world that alleged deep thinker Paul Ryan foresees a balanced budget in 10 years - thanks to the repeal of Obamacare.

Will somebody please stage an intervention and tell this guy that Obamacare is here to stay, and that therefore his new budget blueprint is delusional?

When Ryan was tapped last summer for the lower rung on the GOP presidential ticket, I wrote: "The rattling you just heard was the cart of Champagne being wheeled into Obama campaign headquarters." Ryan, I pointed out, was "one of the top players in the singularly unpopular Republican Congress," and the perennial architect of budget blueprints "that would make rich people richer, shred the social safety net, and kill guaranteed Medicare. Obama's path to re-election just got smoother."

Well, he's back again this week, with a new budget blueprint, and it plays like a broken record: killing the Medicare guarantee, slashing federal spending in the aforementioned sectors, and shredding the safety net. A true believer never learns, not even in the wake of a resounding defeat. And now he has doubled-down, hinging his balanced-budget projections on the belief - or assumption, or article of faith - that Obamacare will be repealed.

If this were anyone but Ryan, I might be tempted to ask what he has been smoking. Indeed, there was a moment, on Fox News Sunday, when host Chris Wallace seemed poised to ask that same question. Consider the following exchange.

Wallace: "Are you saying that as part of your budget you would repeal - you assume the repeal of Obamacare?"

Ryan: "Yes."

Wallace: "Well, that's not going to happen."

Ryan: "Well, we believe it should."

Ryan's latter response said it all. President Obama, notwithstanding his own flaws as a budget negotiator, is stuck dealing with an opposition party that's allergic to political reality, a party that's still in denial about last November. This was all evident again yesterday, when Ryan conversed with the media about his new blueprint. If any shrinks were watching, they would have been fascinated.

At one point, Ryan was asked about last November. A reporter said: "People outside this process might wonder if elections have consequences." And Ryan, referring to his draconian budget proposals, actually responded: "Are a lot of these solutions very popular, and did we win these arguments in the campaign? Some of us think so."

Well, let's see: The Republicans decisively lost the presidential race. They lost Wisconsin, the state that home boy Ryan was supposed to put in play. They lost the national popular vote in the Senate races. They lost the national popular vote in the House races. And they lost the Obamacare issue (which wasn't giving them any traction anyway), because they lost in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Obamacare is the law of the land; in fact, at last glance, eight Republican governors have already signed on to its key Medicaid provision. Politically, the odds of repeal are roughly equivalent to the odds of George W. Bush's face being carved on Mount Rushmore. Calling for repeal is already a crank impulse, like when Republicans in 1936 campaigned for the repeal of Social Security, assailing the new benefit as "unjust, unworkable, stupidly drafted and wastefully financed." (How'd that reactionary crusade work out for them?)

And yet, here was Ryan again on Tuesday: "We will never be able to balance the budget if you keep Obamacare going....This to us is something that we're not going to give up on."

Hearing Ryan's fantasy, I'm tempted to quote the last lines of The Great Gatsby, because 88 years ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald appeared to foresee today's GOP: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past." But I'll yield the floor to a Republican, ex-Bush campaign pollster Matthew Dowd, who tweeted this the other day: "Paul Ryan's budget, which includes repeal of Obamacare, is like Lee showing up at Appomattox and saying to Grant, 'Here are my demands.'"

No wonder Ryan, in the presidential tally, couldn't even carry his own home town.

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Copyright 2013 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a "Writer in Residence" at the University of Philadelphia. Email him at dickpolman7@gmail.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.



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