Beware of those peddling politics for dummies

The chattering classes say Republicans are in trouble because of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposed changes to Medicare.  They say that because, across the land, there has not been a rousing call for its adoption by acclamation, and therefore we can ascertain that the proposers are on the outs with the American people.  In fact some people do object, and for a number of reasons, but I don’t know how much trouble the whole GOP is in over this issue, since I try not to make the sweeping generalization my first conclusion or give myself credit for being able to see the future or into the minds of others.

But I think that what’s happening right now on this subject is a good thing.  We need to talk about details if we’re going to find a way out of our federal budget mess.  No one has wanted to talk specifics because, well, talking about paying more and spending less is not fun.  But beyond that, few in power dare to address specifics for fear that the short attention span American voter and the heat-before-light American news media will fixate only on the fact that someone proposed something and rain down ridicule and ignominy upon them until the end of days (no, not until October 21, for much longer than that).  Any open discussion or real give and take on a serious issue becomes more and more unlikely as it becomes more and more clear that the discussion will be intentionally twisted into a negative campaign ad.

We have to talk specifics on this, but that doesn’t mean that we have to do everything that is proposed, or that every unadopted proposal is a failure.  Ryan’s plan may never become law, but it already served the purpose of getting us talking about details.  Now we need to keep talking, not recoil from the negative reaction to the first serious plan and never say anything ever again.

The budget crunches in this country are real and can’t be solved just with accounting tricks; it’s going to mean painful cuts in programs that people need as well as ones they want.  For example: here in Texas our state law requires a balanced budget and there’s only so much money available this time around—tens of billions of dollars less than the current budget.  Absent a multi-billion dollar windfall of biblical proportions, the only way out means someone’s ox gets gored…or likely in this case, everyone’s oxen.  As Patricia Kilday Hart made the point in a recent column, the discussion is about what gets defined as an “essential” government program.  In order not to reach into the state’s savings account this time, there are budget plans that make some changes:

It cuts state Child Protective Services “intake” offices so severely that officials predict 85,000 calls about abused children will not be answered.

It shortchanges school districts for the 80,000 new students expected to show up at the front doors of public schools next year.

It cuts Medicaid reimbursement rates to nursing homes so drastically that the industry predicts 75 percent of the nursing homes in Texas will shut their doors, leaving 60,000 elderly Texans without care and 47,000 employees without jobs.

The polls have been showing for a while that people want the budget fixed, they just don’t want the fix to hurt them.  Well, “they” are going to have to get over that or “we” will get nowhere…except closer to the edge as the wind picks up a little bit.

6 thoughts on “Beware of those peddling politics for dummies

  1. What people fail to realize is that taking a little pain now is a whole lot better than the massive migraine we’re going to have if we don’t do something now. And that means everybody must take a little pain. No special interest groups excepted.

    Mike G.

  2. This is a good start, as we should be talking about specific proposals. We can then debate the rationale for each proposal, how each proposal complies or does not comply with the stated rationale, and whether there are any viable alternatives, including proposals not included in the Ryan Proposals. Those alternatives can then scrutinized under the same analysis. I too am ready to make cuts across the entire breadth of the economy (both on-the-budget and off-budget).

    What we have to do is eliminate the barriers to debate in which a person is crticized simply for making an argument. If a person wants to make cuts to Medicare or to the defense budget, that does not make the person unintelligent or a bad person. If someone dislikes or likes respectively part of the Ryan Proposals, that does not make that person uninformed or breaking ranks of Conservatives or Liberals respectively. If a person wants to close a tax deduction or credit, that person is not advocating raising taxes (but rather seeks to eliminate an economic idea that no longer makes sense).

    I suspect that Mike and I will not agree on some of the Ryan Proposals, but I welcome his arguments. When it all is said and done, we can restore fiscal sanity in a way that concretizes the American ethic and restores the confidence of the American citizenry. Or, we can argue about whether even to start the debate by calling each other names.

    Merci. Pace e salute. Pascal

    1. Pascal, my friend, how are you?

      I’ve read over Ryan’s proposed budget and to be honest, I like it, although I think it could go a bit farther. The solutions he advances are pretty modest and I think if not for all the heated rhetoric from Washington and the Progressive members of Congress, some good compromises could be made. If you’ve noticed, the Democrats haven’t proposed their own budget and they won’t until after the election. Why should they, when the Republican budget is already out there and all they think they need to do between now and the election is denigrate the bill and make up propaganda against the bill without forwarding anything of their own.

      When I said it didn’t go far enough, what I meant was that there are a few departments that could be completely defunded and given back to the states or local communities to run. Two I can think of right off the bat, are the Departments of Education and Labor. As Ryan alludes to in his budget, there are a bunch of duplicate departments that can be closed down and streamlined so as to provide better service and save tax dollars.

      I look forward to critique and solutions or thoughts from you and Pat.

      Mike G.

  3. I am well. Thank you. I hope Pat and you are well also.

    I agree that there should be a review of all federal agencies. I would add the Department of Energy to your list. There should be a uniform set of goals set nationally in the area of education, labor and energy, but there is no need for separate agencies.

    I am still studying the Ryan Proposals. This weekend, however, is time to honor those who have served and to live the freedoms they secured for us. Have a safe, healthy and fun weekend.

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