The Ryan Budget is a big gift to all of us, right and left, because it clearly shows us what the GOP stands for – nature red in tooth and claw where we struggle for survival of the fittest – with a little extra help for our rich citizens who are probably considered to be the most fit because they can afford to pay Congress for the assistance. This blatant embrace of the 1% is interesting because new research suggests that it does not really reflect the beliefs of the important if somewhat confused Tea Partiers who are popularly supposed to be playing an important role in the ever more rightward drift in the GOP itinerary.
Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson, who have exhaustively researched the Tea Party phenomenon, have concluded that even those strident advocates for “liberty” from taxes, don’t really oppose government spending – as long as the spending is lavished on people they perceive as being like themselves. As Steven Teles summarizes it in The Washington Monthly:
In short, the fundamental principle of Tea Party activists is that government is fine when it’s helping people like them-hardworking, uncomplaining, non-mooching, self-restraining, religious (but not Muslim!), patriotic Americans-but it’s a threat when it’s helping people who are not like them. Screaming about the debt is really just the language Tea Party activists use to express their fear that the reins of government have been taken away from the people who actually make the society work, and given to a coalition of weirdos and parasites.
Which brings us to the three Republicans vying to represent their party in the race contesting Claire McCaskill’s Senate Seat. Their reactions to the Ryan budget provide a type of Rorschach test not only for the individuals involved, but for the degree to which they are actually attuned to attitudes that animate their base:
Todd Akin, a.k.a. Mr. Predictable, makes no bones about the fact that he wants to push even the lame, halt and starving little birdies out of what he views as a nest unfairly feathered by the government at great cost to the rich:
This is a concrete plan that will put our economy back on track. Now is not a time to sit on the fence or to wait to see where the polls and political winds blow, it is time for action and leadership
Since almost no economists believe that the Ryan spending plan will do anything other than increase the deficit, gut the safety net and enrich the rich, this has to be a case of hard-core ideological blindness, disguised with the now cliched GOP efforts to paint Ryan as a bold thinker – or even as a thinker. Clearly, Akin would love to see the last of such programs as Medicare – and he might find that this attitude won’t endear him to the very folks he’s relying on to support him.
Sarah Steelman, the anointed candidate of the Tea Party Express if not all generic Tea Partiers in Missouri, is more in tune with the Tea Party mentality that Skocpol describes, albeit in a cautious fashion:
I would like to move towards a fairer flatter tax, shrink the size of government and balance the budget sooner. I am also taking a closer look at the Medicare revisions to make sure that Congress isn’t treated better than our seniors and that seniors have the option of staying with the current Medicare plan.
In other words, Steelman wants to deflect attention from the issue of privatizing Medicare, and tries to placate her Tea Party followers by reassuring them that if they suffer, she’ll make sure that Congress suffers too. Congress is usually a fail-safe stalking horse. Notice that Steelman says nothing about making sure that the wealthy pick up their fair share of the load that the Ryan Budget foists off on the poor and middle class.
And John Brunner? Mr. No-Show does it again:
The third GOP candidate, St. Louis businessman John Brunner, said that Ryan showed “courage and leadership,” but declined to offer his views on the Wisconsin lawmaker’s proposed budget.
Interesting that Bruner chooses to emphasize “courage and leadership” while carefully showing neither. It seems that what he dubs the “message of the citizen-senator against the career politician,” when speaking about his campaign, seems to be no more than an empty piece of paper.
No word yet about what the newest candidate, anti-stem cell guy Mark Memoly, thinks about budget priorities. I suspect it’ll be entertaining.
So there you have it. The old-line, crank right winger, Tea Party confusion and obfuscation, a corporate GOPer who stands for almost nothing but getting elected, and a cipher. And they want us to entrust them to watch out for programs like Medicare and Social Security that have sustained and built the middle classes, programs that even important segments of their own base support.