Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Paul Abrams Headshot

How the Paul Ryan Budget Could Be Used as This Year's Wedge Issue -- Against the Right

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Nuts, but fired up, Tea Party extremists supply the Republican Party's energy. Rightly anxious and frustrated by events they cannot control, "Independents" (a term for people who are soberly and rightly disgruntled, that I use for the sake of simplicity) have withdrawn support from Democrats, but they are not exactly turned on by Republicans either, and they recognize Tea Party candidates as extremists, with a few screws loose.

Both by temperament and policies, those two groups should not be supporting the same candidates. But, to date, Democrats have allowed Republicans to have it both ways.

If the Democrats want to win in November, (i.e., suffer no more than 'normal' losses), they need to force Republicans to take a clear, unambiguous position, on a major issue, about which Tea Partiers and Independents have diametrically opposed positions.

Enter, the "Ryan Budget".

When Democrats return in September, while they still hold majorities, they should conduct several days of hearings on the Ryan Budget, and then bring it to a vote in both the House and the Senate.

The Ryan budget? Few know what it is, fewer care. But, the Democrats need to "make" people aware and care.

Paul Ryan (R-WI) is the point person for House Republicans on the budget committee. He is considered to be a "rising star" in their ranks. He designed a budget proposal that he says would bring the nation's books into balance, without raising taxes, within 10 years. Contrary to Democrats' claims that Republicans have "no solutions", the Republicans will point to this budget proposal on the campaign trail as proof that they can do it--this time. [Ryan's entire exercise, by the way, was to concoct a scheme so Republicans could preserve tax cuts for the wealthy--that's their core value!].

Of course, they will not talk about the details of that proposal, such as privatizing social security and turning Medicare into a voucher program with vouchers that will increasingly not meet the costs of medical care for the elderly. Instead, they will just assert "we did it", fend off Democrats' attempts to point out its failings as political sniping, and win the November elections with Tea Party, traditional Republican and "Independent" support.

That is, if the Democrats continue to let them get away with it by not getting them to vote for it.

If Republicans alienate the Tea Party or the "Independents", they will make no more than the traditional gains in off year elections--a "win" for the Democrats. By forcing a vote on the Ryan Budget, Republicans will alienate one of them.

Better than any million dollar ad buy, Democrats should use their gavel-power first to inform the American people about the Ryan budget by holding a couple of days of hearings. To get full press attention, no other hearings should be scheduled on those days, and a range of economists and policymakers should be invited to testify. Make it interesting. (Ask them, among other things, what the cost of your private insurance will be if the elderly are added to private insurance rolls. It will make taxes no longer seem so uniformly "evil").

Then, bring the Ryan budget to a vote. If Republicans vote for the Ryan Budget, they will be voting to do what Republican paymasters like the Koch brothers have always wanted, but the electorate has never been sucked into supporting--privatize social security, scale down medicare until it is worthless. Remember Newt Gingrich's reverie, "social security and medicare will be left to wither on the vine"? Democrats have shown in the past that they can run successfully against privatizing social security and gutting medicare.

If Republicans vote against the Ryan Budget, however, they will infuriate the Tea Party. Indeed, being infuriated is what the Tea Party is all about. They are very good at it.

I make this proposal with some trepidation, since Democrats will likely run a quick poll, discover that no one knows about the Ryan budget and thus discard it as not even being on the radar screen.

That is what Democrats do. That is why Democrats lose. Republicans by contrast create news that suits them when there is none from the "Ground Zero Mosque" (that is, a) not at ground zero; and b) not a mosque, but, hey, who's keeping track?) to WMD in Iraq that, curiously, arose in September before Congressional elections because August was not considered a good month to gin people up for being lied into war.

As good as Tea Partiers are at being infuriated, and as good as Republicans are at lying, the Democrats are equally good at being clueless about how to move electorates.

This time, what about a little strategic thinking?

Force the Republicans to make that choice on the Ryan Budget, and the Tea Partiers and disgruntled Independents will be bedfellows no more.

Not only will Democrats then remain in control of Congress, but extremism will have suffered a major loss, providing some 'political space' to enact some real jobs-creating, climate-saving legislation and, instead of destroying the Department of Education, actually start educating our children for the jobs of the next decades.

First things first, though. Win in November, then hold them accountable to strengthen the middle class, and get our economy moving again, this time, sustainably.