Paul Ryan: Putting the Con in Conservative

Robert Borosage

Rep. Paul Ryan’s bravura performance last night at the Republican convention gave full display of the skills honed by a career pol who has spent his entire adult life in the Washington watering holes of the right. Ryan has learned to look straight into the camera and exude a choir boy’s innocent sincerity while offering up a toxic brew of platitude, slur and deception.

“We will not duck the tough issues; we will lead,” he proclaimed in a speech that ducked or distorted every issue it touched. “We will not spend four years blaming others; we will take responsibility” in a speech devoted to blaming Obama for every lonely heart (“if you’re feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you”) while putting his own disastrous record into the memory hole.

The most Orwellian Big Lie of the Republican convention isn’t the race bait nonsense about work requirements in welfare. It isn’t the mind-numbing repetition of the “built it” deception. It is Ryan’s brazen and dangerous posturing about Medicare.

Ryan and Romney have apparently decided that Americans are easily misled and a docile press won’t hold them accountable. So Ryan charges Obama with “raiding” Medicare – with savings from insurance companies and medical providers that Ryan includes in his own budget. Then he swears on his mother and grandmother that Romney and he will “protect and preserve” Medicare – even though his plan is to end Medicare as we know it, turning it from a program that pays for health care, to a voucher that will cover less and less care over time, and put more and more costs on those least able to afford them.

And Ryan and Romney’s bet may well be right. HuffPo’s Ryan Grim noted the reaction to Ryan’s speech that was replete with lies big and little and devoid of any idea beyond patriotic pablum. CNN’s David Gergen, the sonorous prattler of convention, grudgingly acknowledged some “misstatements” while hailing “a speech about big ideas.”

Big ideas? There were platitudes about the founders, speech-writers’ bits about family, the blame Obama meme. Through it all, I waited for Ryan to say one thing about what Romney proposes to do differently to get the economy moving. In an address that seemed interminable, Ryan offered one hint. They would limit government spending to the arbitrary level of 20% of GDP . Why this number? No explanation No recognition that with the boomers aging and vital investments starved over these last conservative decades, we might face rising, not lower costs. Nope, this is the magic bullet. Limit spending t0 20% of GDP and business prospers, the sun shines, and you’ll never be lonely again.

The reality, of course, is that Ryan has been wrong about almost everything while contributing to the mess we are in. He’s been an apostle of financial deregulation, ignoring the Wall Street excesses that blew up the economy. He touted the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq War and the prescription drug benefit without concern for paying for them. He voted for TARP with no demand of heads rolling on Wall Street. He pockets big bucks from Big Oil in denial of climate change. He’s a proud advocate of the corporate trade deals that continue to rack up foreign deficits of over one billion a day.

And the Romney Ryan plan doesn’t start with deficit reduction. It starts with larding even more tax cuts on the wealthy – and pays for them by savaging Medicaid and programs for the vulnerable – from food stamps to child nutrition. Ryan projects piety, but his budget is so cruel as to earn moral rebuke from the Catholic bishops.

Deficit reduction? Ryan’s budget gets to a balance after 28 years after racking up trillions more in debt — and only on the assumption that we will literally eviscerate the domestic services of government – from the FBI to education, the Veteran’s administration to child nutrition.

It is striking. With the economy a mess, Obama is clearly at risk. But Republicans know their plan is unpopular. So instead of indicting Obama and laying out what they propose to do, they are intent on making this one of the most dishonest campaigns in modern memory.

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