Congressman Paul Ryan always reminds me of a medieval court jester. Although not gussied up in the belled cap and four-color doublet of a fool’s costume, his sharp-nosed profile, glittering eyes and slender build stamps him as an heir to those quick-witted souls who spent their lifetime amusing royalty in somewhat the manner of a brainy animal pet.
Yet Paul Ryan does have human attributes. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be so sly and quietly ferocious. Some critics (mostly fellow Republicans) have pointed out his diabolical self-serving interest in producing the Budget From Hell. It was nothing less, they claimed, than an effort to exonerate himself in their eyes from the fact that at a crucial time, he had led the effort to produce a budget in tandem with the Democrats that would keep the U.S. government functioning. The hard right so-called Tea Partyers (how I cringe as an historian whenever I hear that distortion of the group of 18th century patriots fighting for representation not tax evasion) blistered Ryan. The Congressman from Wisconsin then simply cobbled together a blue print for the Republican Party that would satisfy the fanatics.
The red meat that Ryan threw to these Inegalitarian’s included ending Medicare and Medicaid and turning health care 100% back to the health insurance companies. A small subsidy would be included under Ryan’s plan for everyone to BUY health policies. I recently had a case of shingles diagnosed at a hospital emergency room out of state. The bill for that one visit was almost $1,000. Thank God for Medicare.
At the same time in his budget, Ryan offers the very rich champagne and caviar and directs enough of our common wealth to further fill the already overstuffed wallets of the 1% to buy perhaps another addition to their fleets of yachts.
Ryan has had the colossal nerve to title his proposed budget: “The Path to Prosperity” In other words, more prosperity for the prosperous.
These bundles of banknotes the Wisconsin Congressman would push toward the ultra-ultras would be accompanied by a massacre of the poor and, yes, the middle class.
The blow to these groups of our fellow Americans is startling. Almost 70% of the Ryan budget is aimed at further impoverishing the impoverished and trying to continue the fall of the middle class. In this hodge-podge wish list of the extreme right also lies a veiled threat to Social Security, a future target. Meanwhile, savage cuts are proposed for education and health. Sorry, guys and gals, you 8 million who signed up for Obamacare. Ryan is going to take that away from you. His admonition is that this heartless document of his “empowers recipients to get out of the aid rolls and back on the pay rolls.” A nice sound bite but nowhere does he spell out where those jobs are coming from. I would like to ask him: “How in t Hell does getting rid of Public Broadcasting put us on the Path To Prosperity? I suppose he might divert my question with an answer that his budget would exempt companies from having to pay taxes on overseas earnings. Certainly, he must realize that those companies are in the export business of sending American jobs abroad. And we’re supposed to reward them!
I could go on and on. I won’t get into the huge chunk of change he gives to the military. In the interest of full disclosure, I have for 20 some years been Chairman of the Seacoast Shipyard Association, the public group that supports keeping the oldest public shipyard in America where it is and not sending its work to a private company in Connecticut that has done similar work with cost overruns and delays in meeting schedules. The Sequestration nonsense caused more harm to our splendid workforce at the Portsmouth shipyard than would an enemy attack.
Okay, so where’s the history in all of this. There are numerous examples of what happens when the “Economic Royalists,” as Franklin Roosevelt called them are in charge. Need I mention a certain Great Depression or a certain more recent Great Recession.
However, going back even farther for a parable, I would direct your attention to England in the 17th century.
In most English towns in that period, there was a significant amount of green space where local citizens, mostly poor, some rich, could feed their sheep at community expense. These areas were called “The Commons.” The Boston Common is an example. Early attempts by the nobility to hog this resource for themselves began in the 12th century. But it was in the 18th century that the movement to kick off the common folk really took off. The argument for doing so was that “enclosures” could produce more wool and lamb.
The upheaval created by this selfish move on the part of the aristocracy created untold hardship among the common people of England. Instead of continuing as sturdy, self-supporting agriculturists, hundreds of thousands if not millions were driven into dire poverty. Many became part of a pool of laborers from which the owners of factories could draw their workers and pay them starvation wages. If there was an upside to all of this, it was that many fled Great Britain, mostly to the U.S. and Canada.
The French had perfected even more Paul Ryan’s ideals of tax-shifting onto the “little people,” as hotel mogul Leona Helmsley called them when she boasted of her tax avoidance and proclaimed: “Only the little people pay taxes.” In 18th century France, the numerous nobility paid no taxes whatsoever. We all know what happened: the French Revolution, and a wholesale decimation of the privileged class. Queen Marie Antoinette quite literally lost her head to the guillotine for her callousness when told the people had no bread to eat.
Finally, let’s look at the real Tea Party in our country. The protesters in Boston, every American knows or should know, were not protesting against taxes as such. They had unfurled the banner of “No Taxation Without Representation.” The present day so called Tea Party has tried to mystify this fact. Nor would they liked to be reminded that another beef the English colonists in America had was that the money being squeezed from them was going directly to a private company, The British East India Company. Shades of today when Paul Ryan applauds paying stipends to companies for taking their jobs overseas. Since we are now all accepting the current Tea Party diehards by that term, let it be emphasized that there is no glory in their efforts to crucify the poor and diminish the middle class.
Make no mistake. Paul Ryan, himself, has admitted that his preposterous budget would not survive in this Congress. But what about the future?
The Congressman from Wisconsin has hoisted a standard that can be followed when and if Republicans gain control of both bodies in Congress and the Presidency.
It is truly the Budget from Hell. Let us all bend our efforts to preventing it from every being enacted.