Thursday, May 26, 2011

Would You Buy Snake Oil From This CONgressman?

Sometime last year, I saw a Charlie Rose interview with Congressman Paul Ryan and I was actually impressed. This was the first time I heard about him and I was surprised that there was actually an articulate Republican politician who seemed to have a grasp of economics. That was then. This is now.

After his dismal Republican Response to President Obama's State of the Union Address earlier this year, I wondered what happened to him. Someone must have gotten to him after the mid-term elections. No longer is he a reasonable and principled politician who wants to do the right thing. He's drunk the GOP Kool-Aid. He's an ideologue now. Just another in a long line of Republicans who have made it a career objective to destroy FDR / Truman's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society.

It is no well-kept secret that the Republicans want to destroy the social safety net and return America to the days of the Robber Barons at the turn of the 20th century (the President William McKinley days). What did George W. Bush want to do after the 2004 elections, when he claimed to have a mandate and "political capital" that he intended to use? That's right. He wanted to privatize Social Security. Fortunately, the good sense of the American people (often in doubt) did not falter on this one. Bush's Social Security Reform plans were considered "D.O.A." (Dead on Arrival). A few months later, Hurricane Katrina turned New Orleans into a lake and Bush never recovered his presidency (his approval ratings never got above 40% after Katrina). What Bush did manage to accomplish, though, was squander the surplus that his predecessor left behind. Then rack up a huge debt that actually make big spender Ronald Reagan look like a frugal tightwad and penny-pincher.

I've read in some essays that there is a belief that the reason why Republicans rack up so much debt during their presidencies is because this forces the Democratic president who follows to clean up their mess, thus never getting a chance to initiate their dream list (like, say, Single Payer Universal Health Care or tuition-free college education at state-run universities). Another reason the 2000 election had to be stolen: there is no way the Republicans want a Democratic president to inherit a surplus. This is why, if you look at history over the past 125 years, Republicans leave office in a recession (or Depression) and Democrats spend most of their time bringing the economy back to life.

Now comes the latest scheme. The Republicans have tapped fresh-faced, boyish looking Paul Ryan ( he old enough to drive a car, yet?) to act as their snake-oil salesman in their never-ending quest to turn America into a feudal serfdom. I can imagine a lot of grannies wanting to pinch Ryan's cheek and flirt with him, while in secret, he's working to cut out their medicare payments so they could have the decency to just die already (the "death panels" that Sarah Palin had accused President Obama's Health Care Reform plan of wanting to establish is actually more fitting of a typical Health Management Organization. Insurance companies don't want to pay out because it hurts their CEOs salaries and stockholders). The Republicans are so cynical in how they use physical looks to distract the superficial while they deliver the body blow like some two-bit mafia goon. Paul Ryan reminds me of Ralph Reed, the boyish-looking leader of the Christian Coalition in the 1990s (since Pat Robertson simply scared too many people to be an effective face for politically active conservative Christians). Paul Ryan looks like the boy next door. The sweet neighbour that girls have crushes on. If they made a movie about his life, Paul Rudd would be the natural actor to star as Congressman Ryan. But don't let those baby blue eyes fool you. Congressman Paul Ryan is nothing more than a snake oil charmer who would sell you down the river to make a quick buck.

Its funny to hear Republicans scream about the debt crisis, when this was not even a concern or an issue worth debating when their beloved leader was running up huge deficits in the previous decade. First with the tax cuts in 2001, then with the launching of two expensive wars on credit from Chinese bankers. Then another tax cut on top of that, followed by a stimulus tax rebate to every adult American citizen in the amount of $600 to spend as we saw fit (mine paid for a vacation to San Diego). Not one word out of any Republican's mouth about any of that. They truly are the Lemming Party: follow the leader, even if he leads you off a cliff!

Now, with a Democratic president, deficits finally matter (Vice President Dick Cheney famously said: "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter." Where is such talk today?). But it apparently does not matter enough, because the Republicans will not budge on ending the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. This inability to compromise means that the wealthiest Americans are willing to screw everyone else just so that they can have more money in which to buy more politicians to vote their way. Its such greedy unwillingness to sacrifice for the good of the country that makes me hope that what Jesus said is true: that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. These greedy, wealthy bastards should go straight to hell when they die. It is unpatriotic to demand more and more money at taxpayer expense. They already have more money than they know what to do with. When you live in a mega-mansion, you already wasted money on frivolous stuff and should have to pay higher taxes for the impact on the planet your lifestyle has.

So now, the latest push is to privatize the Medicare system, which is considered one of the most popular government programs. Even teabaggers who rally against the government are enamored of their Medicare (as signs seen at rallies attested to their ignorance: "Keep gubmint hands off my Medicare!"). To dismantle this program, the Republicans have dusted off the old standby: vouchers! Vouchers have been their answer for public education, which they've been pushing since the 1970s. It has never gained traction, though. Although the average American can be conned into voting against their economic self-interest in election after election, there still seems to be a baseline of conscience somewhere in the mix. Or an understanding of how awful vouchers truly are. I guess most Americans can see through that scheme, because right now, all children are required by law to go to school (at least until they reach the age when they can legally drop-out) and public education is free. If the Republicans had their way, public schools would be abolished and each parent would be given a voucher for each child that is equal to how much the school cost per child per year. Of course, this is very difficult to pin down to a number, because school budgets depend on the district and a lot of other factors. One can take a school's annual budget and divide by the number of students, but that still does not reflect that actual cost of an education.

The scary thing about vouchers is that each parent would only get a certain amount per child. They would take it to the various private schools to redeem, yet there is nothing stopping the private school to raise their tuition rates above the voucher amount, to screen out poorer families. Middle class parents wanting to enroll their children in a good school would have no choice but to pay out of pocket expenses on education that should be free (and has been for centuries). Its a scam.

Its pretty shocking when both the Wall Street Journal and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich have attacked Ryan's Medicare voucher plan as extreme. Gingrich, himself, got into serious trouble with his party when he called the plan an extremist right-wing agenda, which is going to play very well next year for Democrats all over the country. The retirees are the most consistent and heavy voting demographic group in our country and by promoting a voucher plan to drain Medicare, the Republicans are going to lose big on this one, as the recent special election in a very Republican district of upstate New York has proven on Tuesday. This was a district that once reelected Chris Lee by a whopping 50% points higher than his rival last November. This Chris Lee happens to be the Congressman who responded to a Craigslist ad with a shirtless photo of himself and claiming to be a single lobbyist (rather than a very married Congressman). Gotta love the Republicans in their complete lack of morality. What does it say about a political party when an amoral presidential candidate is calling them out on their lack of compassion? I mean, Gingrich is the guy who ditched his first wife when she was recovering from surgery in the hospital!!!

So, thank you Gingrich for speaking the truth once in your life. Feels good, doesn't it? Its about time some Republicans stop drinking the ideological Kool-Aid and call out their party's bad ideas. I honestly can't wait for the debates to begin for the 2012 elections. Each and every single time the American people have given the Republicans a chance, this party has abused that trust. I really hope that voters wise up finally and realize that the Republican Party cannot be trusted with power under any circumstances. As the years roll by and they keep trying to chip away at the foundation of what makes our country great, the more I despise the Republican Party. I wish they would make like Sampson and just utterly, completely destroy themselves and let the rest of us build an America that offers universal health care under a single payer, where college education is affordable, if not free, for those who are serious about learning, and where truthful debate flourishes. The hucksters and con men belong to a different era: the days before the Information Age. Paul Ryan is just one such person. Nope, those blue eyes on a boyish face don't fool me none.

Should we be surprised, though? Paul Ryan had said that it was his reading of Ayn Rand books that got him interested in a political career. Really? Her brand of selfishness and unrealistic portrayal of human society was the inspiring fire that ignited his political aspirations? That's actually pretty scary. The news also came out recently that Ryan was a recipient of Social Security when he was a teenager, after his father had died. Another typical example of something being good enough for a Republican, but not good enough for anyone else.

Well guess what, Mr. Ryan. You can take your medicare voucher and go straight to hell where you came from. You are nothing but a con artist trying to destroy the lives of millions. How do you sleep at night? I truly hope that the voters of Wisconsin wake up to the nightmare that they've unleashed on the country (with the reelection of Congressman Ryan, the election of Governor Scott Walker and his union-busting agenda, and the election of a Reality TV star, Sean Duffy to Congress). Haven't they learned the lesson that their Senator Joseph McCarthy taught us back in the 1950s? Sometimes the real enemy is not out there (in Pakistan or Iran), but within. And I don't mean "reds in government" like McCarthy meant it. Red is considered the Republican colour and that is what's wrong with our country: too many reds in government, trying every which way to destroy all that is good about society. No thanks. Looking forward to 2012, when the retirees vote in droves against the Republican Party. Yeah, it will feel like the end of the world for every Republican when they are voted out of office.

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