There will be two big stars at the Republican National Convention, and neither of them will be Mitt Romney. One will, of course, be Paul Ryan, Mr. Romney’s running mate. The other will be Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, who will give the keynote address. And while the two men could hardly look or sound more different, they are brothers under the skin.
How so? Both have carefully cultivated public images as tough, fiscally responsible guys willing to make hard choices. And both public images are completely false.
I’ve written a lot lately deconstructing the Ryan myth, so let me turn today to Mr. Christie.
When Mr. Christie took office in January 2010, New Jersey — like many other states — was in dire fiscal straits thanks to the effects of a depressed economy. Unlike the federal government, states are required by their constitutions to run more or less balanced budgets every year (although there is room for accounting gimmicks), so like other governors, Mr. Christie was forced to engage in belt-tightening.
So far so normal: while Mr. Christie has made a lot of noise about his tough budget choices, other governors have done much the same. Nor has he eschewed budget gimmicks: like earlier New Jersey governors, Mr. Christie has closed budget gaps in part by deferring required contributions to state pension funds, which is in effect a form of borrowing against the future, and he has also sought to paper over budget gaps by diverting money from places like the Transportation Trust Fund.
If there is a distinctive feature to New Jersey’s belt-tightening under Mr. Christie, it is its curiously selective nature. The governor was willing to cancel the desperately needed project to build another rail tunnel linking the state to Manhattan, but has invested state funds in a megamall in the Meadowlands and a casino in Atlantic City.
Also, while much of his program involves spending cuts, he has effectively raised taxes on low-income workers and homeowners by slashing tax credits. But he vetoed a temporary surcharge on millionaires while refusing to raise the state’s gasoline tax, which is the third-lowest in America and far below tax rates in neighboring states. Only some people, it seems, are expected to make sacrifices.
But as I said, Mr. Christie talks a good (and very loud) game about his willingness to make tough choices, making big claims about spending cuts — claims, by the way, that PolitiFact has unequivocally declared false. And for the past year he has been touting what he claims is the result of those tough choices: the “Jersey comeback,” the supposed recovery of his state’s economy.
Strange to say, however, Mr. Christie has told reporters that he won’t use the term “Jersey comeback” in his keynote address. And it’s not hard to see why: the comeback, such as it was, has hit the skids. Indeed, the latest figures show his state with the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation. Strikingly, New Jersey’s 9.8 percent unemployment rate is now significantly higher than the unemployment rate in long-suffering Michigan, which has had a true comeback thanks to the G.O.P.-opposed auto bailout.
Now, state governors don’t actually have much impact on short-run economic performance, so the skidding New Jersey economy isn’t really Mr. Christie’s fault. Still, he was the one who chose to make it an issue. And even more important, he’s still pushing the policies the state’s recovery was supposed to justify.
You see, all that boasting about the Jersey comeback wasn’t just big talk (although it was that, too). It was, instead, supposed to demonstrate that good times were back, revenue was on the upswing, and it was now time for what Mr. Christie really wants: a major cut in income taxes.
Even if the comeback were real, this would be a highly dubious idea. By all accounts, New Jersey still has a significant structural deficit, that is, a deficit that will persist even when the economy recovers. Furthermore, the Christie tax-cut proposal would do very little for the middle class but give large breaks to the wealthy.
But in any case, the good times are by no means back, and neither is the revenue boom that was supposed to justify a tax cut. So has the very responsible Mr. Christie accepted the idea of at least delaying his tax-cut plan until the promised revenue gains materialize? Of course not.
Which brings me back to the comparison with Paul Ryan. Mr. Ryan, as people finally seem to be realizing, is at heart a fiscal fraud, boasting about his commitment to deficit reduction but actually placing a much higher priority on tax cuts for the wealthy. Mr. Christie may have a different personal style, but he’s playing the same game.
In other words, meet the new boaster, same as the old boaster. And pray that we won’t get fooled again.
August 28th, 2012 1:40 am Henry Decker
As the Republican party prepares to formally nominate Mitt Romney for president, it seems that Tropical Storm Isaac will loom over every move that they make during their convention. The storm has already forced the party to cut a day from the convention schedule and — in a sure sign of things to come — Reince Priebus called for a moment of silence to pray for those in Isaac’s path (and the emergency responders who will be called in to help), in the only speech of the convention so far.
Unfortunately for those victims and emergency responders, prayers are just about the only support that Republicans will offer them in the inevitable wake of future natural disasters. As the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes, Paul Ryan’s House-approved budget would gut the discretionary federal aid that helps states respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, helps provide food, water, shelter, electric power, and other critical services in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. “This form of discretionary federal aid would be subject to cuts under the Ryan budget,” the CBPP report points out.
While the Ryan budget is characteristically vague about what exactly would be cut from FEMA, its plan to reduce non-entitlement spending to 3.5 percent of GDP in the next 40 years would assuredly include a drastic downsizing of the department.
“If [discretionary federal aid] were scaled back substantially, states and localities would need to bear a larger share of the costs of disaster response and recovery, or attempt to make do with less during difficult times,” as CBPP warns.
This presents a two-pronged problem: First, overburdened local authorities are far less prepared than FEMA for the wide range of disasters that can strike a community. Second, most states — especially some of the most disaster-prone, such as California and Mississippi — are in the midst of serious budget crises as it is. In short, the Ryan plan’s effect on disaster relief would itself be disastrous.
The CBPP report warns that “Federal discretionary funds also help states, cities, and other local governments hire police officers,” and that “Big cuts in funds to hire police officers would shift more of the cost of hiring these officers to state and local budgets.” Given Mitt Romney’s stated opposition to states hiring more police officers and firefighters, it’s safe to assume that, while first responders are in Republicans’ prayers, they aren’t in Republicans’ budgets.
Seven years ago this week, Hurricane Katrina and a lackluster response from FEMA led to one of the worst disasters in American history. Now, as climate change leads to more extreme weather than the country has ever seen, only the party that believed disgraced Bush FEMA director Michael Brown did “a heck of a job” could think it prudent to decimate the budget for disaster relief. But as Paul Ryan takes the stage in Tampa to accept the vice presidential nomination on Wednesday, remember: This is what passes as “serious” in the modern Republican party.
Photo of RNC Chairmam Reince Priebus by AP/Charlie Neibergall
The Huffington Post | By Jack Mirkinson Posted: 08/29/2012 11:03 pm Updated: 08/29/2012 11:57 pm
Paul Ryan's vice presidential acceptance speech ran into a lot of trouble with fact-checkers and journalists.
It seemed like some reporters' heads were going to explode on Twitter as Ryan spoke. For instance, he blasted President Obama for not doing more to keep a GM plant in his hometown open. The problem was that the plant closed before Obama took office. He also criticized Obama for rejecting recommendations from a debt commission that he himself sat on, and whose findings he also rejected.
ABC's Jake Tapper was one of a nearly infinite amount of reporters tweeting these points:
The New Yorker's Atul Gawande was even more direct:
The Washington Post flatly said, "Ryan misleads on GM plant closing."
Some media watchers expressed initital frustration at the lack of fact-checking they were seeing on television during Ryan's speech:
On CNN, Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett began by slightly skirting the issue immediately after the speech.
"I marked seven or eight points I'm sure the fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute if they want to go forward," Blitzer said. "I'm sure they will." He did not specify what the points were.
After a correspondent's interview with Ryan's family — and a fair amount of criticism — Blitzer noted that he had been getting emails from Democrats and others about what, in his words, "they claim were falsehoods, misleading statements, lies, if you will, that were made by Paul Ryan. And I guess that fact-checking is only beginning."
John King then made the point about the GM plant, and Gloria Borger brought up the debt commission issue. Panelist David Gergen took a different tack.
"I think these factual checks are really important," Gergen said. "But this was a speech about big ideas."
Thursday, 30 August 2012 14:04 By Aviva Shen, ThinkProgress | Report
Vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is taking flack on the morning news shows for his keynote address at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night. His speech was riddled with false claims, so much so that even Fox News wrote, "To anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan's speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech."
Here are the most glaring lies from his speech:
1. "A downgraded America." Ryan blamed the president for the nation's credit downgrade in August 2011 after Republicans threatened to allow the government to default on its debt for the first time in history. But the ratings agency explicitly blamed "Republicans saying that they refuse to accept any tax increases as part of a larger deal."
2. "More debt than any other president before him, and more than all the troubled governments of Europe combined." Romney has made the almost identical claim, that Obama has amassed more debt "as almost all of the other presidents combined." But their math doesn't add up: when Obama took office, the national debt was $10.626 trillion. It has increased to slightly above $15 trillion.
3. Shuttered General Motors plant is "one more broken promise." Ryan described a GM plant that closed down in his hometown, Janesville, Wisconsin, and blamed Obama for breaking his promise to keep the plant open when he visited during his campaign. But Obama never made that promise, and the plant shut down in December 2008, before Obama even took office.
4. Obama "did exactly nothing" on Bowles-Simpson. Ryan said, "He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing." In fact, Ryan was instrumental in sabotaging the commission, leading the other House Republicans in voting against the plan.
5. "$716 billion, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama." Ryan's favorite lie is a deliberate distortion of Obamacare's savings from eliminating inefficiencies. Furthermore, Ryan's own plan for Medicare includes these savings. Romney has vowed to restore these cuts, which would render the trust fund insolvent 8 years ahead of schedule.
6. "The greatest of all responsibilities is that of the strong to protect the weak." Ryan closed the speech with an invocation of social responsibility, saying, "The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves." However, numerous clergy members have condemned Ryan's budget plan as "cruel," and "an immoral disaster" because of its devastating cuts in social programs the poor and sick rely on. Meanwhile, Ryan would give ultra-rich individuals and corporations $3 trillion in tax breaks.
RG: liar liar pants on fire. What a shameful speech. This guy has the ethics of a devil.
How can I be " all washed up" if I'm so damn dirty?
By Richard (RJ) Eskow
September 24, 2012 - 1:08pm ET
Audio of Rep. Paul Ryan speaking to the Atlas Society's "Celebration of Ayn Rand," 2005
When they booed Paul Ryan at the American Association of Retired Persons last week, most people didn't even know he called Medicare and Social Security "third party or socialist-based systems." Or that he said he wants to privatize them in order to "break the back" of a "collectivist philosophy."
On recently transcribed remarks from an audio recording, Ryan said his ideas and values were shaped by an extremist author who thought humanity must "reject the morality of altruism," and that his opinions on monetary policy are guided by a fictional speech which says "the words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality."
That author says the "collectivist philosophy" Ryan ascribes to Social Security and Medicare is a "looters' credo." By that reckoning, anyone who receives assistance from the government - including disabled combat veterans or impoverished children - is a "looter."
"Seniors are looters." Wonder how that would have gone over at the AARP? "Disabled veterans are looters." How would that play at the local VFW?
This recording confirms that the GOP's Vice Presidential candidate is the most politically extreme major-party candidate in living memory. His views have already drawn the opposition of Catholic theologians, as well as advocates for lower-income people, the middle class, seniors, the disabled, and children.
If those views were better known, they'd also alienate independents, Democrats, and seniors, as well as most Republicans and Tea Party members.
And by "alienate," we mean terrify.
Ryan's 2005 remarks were made at a gathering entitled "A Celebration of Ayn Rand," in which Rand's often-cultlike followers gathered to celebrate their strange heroine.
How extreme, how far from the mainstream, was Rand's thinking? She was profoundly hostile to the idea that human beings should helping one another, writing that "If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject." Rand also wrote that "Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life."
Oh, and the hero of Rand's novel The Fountainhead commits an act of terrorism. He's an architect who blows up a building because he's angry that his design was changed.
Watch your back, John Boehner.
People should be free to explore any ideas, no matter how far out of the mainstream, without public censure or government restrictions. I've debated Rand acolytes and have always enjoyed the exchange of ideas. But imagine how the press would react if the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate had attended, say, "A Celebration of Karl Marx," where adherents approvingly quoted the final paragraph of the Communist Manifesto?
That's the paragraph which concludes, "... the ends can only be achieved by forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions."
Sects, Lies, and Audiotape
Ryan said this at the "Celebration":
I just want to speak to you a little bit about Ayn Rand and what she meant to me in my life and [in] the fight we're engaged here in Congress. I grew up on Ayn Rand ... and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are.
Ryan also said "the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand."
Remember Rand's words: ""If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject." That's the philosophy that Ryan says framed his "value systems" and beliefs.
It's true that Ryan tried to distance himself from Rand this year - "thrice," as Brad DeLong noted. But the public portions of the "Celebration" speech put the lie to those claims.
DeLong's use of the word "thrice" is a subtle reference to the Biblical story of the betrayal of Christ by Judas, after which St. Peter denied Jesus that many times "ere the cock crowed." But if Ryan has publicly betrayed Rand, he's did so primarily by criticizing her catheism and not her political philosophy.
It's only fair to point out another difference between the Biblical story and Ryan's: unlike Judas (and reportedly a number of Rand's disciples as well), Paul Ryan did not kiss his leader.
On the contrary. Ryan said that Rand's writing "inspired me so much that it's required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with "Atlas Shrugged" ... We go to "Fountainhead" (note: that's the one whose hero commits a terrorist act) ... (and) I always go back to... Francisco d'Anconia's speech [in Atlas Shrugged] on money when I think about monetary policy."
What did d'Anconia say in Atlas Shrugged? "Do not envy a worthless heir ... Do not think (his wealth) should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one ... " Rand/d'Anconia also says "To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you ..."
Here's what Rand-as-d'Anconia says about any wealthy person with a conscience: "Swarms of looters that stay under rocks for centuries come crawling out at the first smell of a man who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of the guilt - and of his life, as he deserves." (Rand's writings frequently exult in the deaths of anyone she considers inferior.)
The speech also says that "Money is the barometer of a society's virtue," adding: "The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality ... Now the looters' credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards ... "
For those who prefer democracy to being subjugated by the wealthy, Rand/d'Anconia offers these words: "The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide - as, I think, he will."
(Whips are favored Rand image; don't even think about it.)
This is the speech that Paul Ryan says he reflects on whenever monetary policy is discussed.
Ryan said the political debates in Washington, "whether it's an amendment vote that I'll take later on this afternoon, or a big piece of policy we're putting through our Ways and Means Committee, it is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict: individualism vs. collectivism. are "a fight of individualism versus collectivism."
Ryan trains his apocalyptically ideological worldview squarely on the nation's seniors and disabled, calling both Medicare and Social Security "third party or socialist-based systems" that must be dismantled in their present form. He laments the collectivist victory that will take place
... if we do not succeed in switching these programs, in reforming these programs from what some people call a defined benefit system, to a defined contribution system ... and I'm talking about health care, as well--from a third party or socialist based system to an individually owned, individually prefunded, individually directed system.
Ryan adds: "We can do this. We are on offense on a lot of these ideas."
These words were spoken in 2005. Since then the Democrats have - and lost - Congress, with Social Security a key element in both their victory and their defeat. But despite the election of a Democratic President, Ryan's radical ideas are still on the "offense" and these popular programs are still on defense.
That's Not His Cross to Bear
Ryan's proposals are opposed by virtually all advocates for seniors, the disabled, veterans, and children, His ideas also place him in opposition to mainstream Catholic and Christian theology. The audio of his appearance before a group of Ayn Rand followers included a partial transcript, but it was Catholic theologian Vincent Miller who transcribed the parts about Social Security and Medicare and brought them to light.
Catholic theologians have long condemned Ayn Rand's economic philosophy in writings such as the Jesuit-published book,Architects of the Culture of Death. Charles Pierce has been tracking Ryan's conflicts with the Jesuits for a while, and he pointed us to Miller's reaction to this latest audio revelation:
(Ryan's) philosophy leaves no room for Catholic notions of Government in service to the common good, there is no room for a social conception of the human person ... Ryan's policies are based on a political philosophy completely at odds with the principles of Catholic Social Doctrine.
Miller also writes of "the threat this philosophy poses to the Catholic faithful." His words were published online in America: The National Catholic Weekly, which is described as a "Catholic media ministry." Miller's qbio states that he is "Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton."
He is also a very good writer.
Ironically, Rand saves her greatest praise for those who 'build' things, a category which ironically includes neither Romney (a career investor) nor Ryan (a career government official). They'e not even architects like Rand's bomb-planting protagonist in The Fountainhead.
But that doesn't mean they don't have a blueprint. From Ryan's "Celebration" speech:
I was the principlal author of the Health Savings Account law, which was an amendment I brought to the floor and passed in the Medicare bill in the last session of Congress. Health Savings Accounts, personal accounts for Social Securities, these are the things that put us on offense, that get the- the individual back in the game and break the back of this collectivist philosophy that really pervades, you know, ninety percent of the thinking around here in this town.
In case that wasn't clear enough, Ryan added: "I think if we win a few of these right now--moving health care to a consumer based, individualist system, moving Social Security to an individually preowned, prefunded retirement system--just those two right there will do so much to change the dynamics in this society."
Randian extremism speaks through Romney, too, as when he says of the now-famous and mythical "47 percent," "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Maybe he can't - but Paul Ryan can. Together Romney and Ryan hope to dismantle the programs we've built together as a nation. Those programs guarantee us financial security in our senior years or if we're disabled. They feel the same way about other programs for poor and middle-income Americans. Romney may have done less of the required reading, but he's just as extreme as his running mate.
Chapter and Verse
Bill Maher was right when he said that "the God Mitt Romney worships isn't in the Bible, it's in the Cayman Islands or Geneva," and that putting God on money is "redundant" because money has become our God. You can thank Ayn Rand and her acolytes, from Alan Greenspan to Paul Ryan, for that theological shift.
Mitt Romney's secret video showed that he shares the delusionally sheltered and narcissistic worldview of his ultra-wealthy peer group. Paul Ryan's recording reveals his radical hostility toward the nation's most popular social programs. Together they display a deep reverence for money, a rejection of the social values that have guided our society since it was founded, and contempt for the idea that people can and should work together to solve their common problems.
The story of Judas is found in Matthew 26, but Ryan's Catholic critics are more likely inspired by words from the preceding chapter. That's the one where Jesus says, "Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these" - fed the hungry, clothed the naked, housed the homeless - "so too have you done it unto me."
"The least of these." Or as the Romney/Ryan/Rand crowd calls them, "looters."
(Many people, including my own stepmother, have chastised me in the Huffington Post comments section for saying "thrice" refers to "the story of Judas."It was Peter, not Judas, did the thrice-denying. I know that! But I've always thought of Matthew 26 as Judas' story. I still maintain that I was on sound scriptural ground, but I've changed the wording for clarity - and to stop an incipient Sunday school teachers' riot. Now will you please keep those rulers away from my knuckles?)