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Joe Conason
Joe Conason
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Paul Ryan's Plan for American Decline


If the foreign adversaries and competitors of the United States imagined a future that would fulfill their most ambitious objectives, it might begin with a government crippled by the House Republican leadership's "Ryan budget" released on Tuesday. Followed to its absurd conclusion, this document would lead America toward a withered state, approaching the point where Marxian dreams and Randian dogma converge.

Or at least that's the view suggested by the sober analysts at the Congressional Budget Office, whose report on the Ryan budget shows debilitating cuts to nearly every department of government today, from law enforcement and border patrols to scientific research, food safety, environmental protection, federal highways, national parks, weather monitoring, education and all the other essential functions of a great country. There would not be much left for Medicare and Medicaid, either. Social Security would continue in some form, and defense — of course — would increase.

But in a nation stripped of science and infrastructure, with a people demoralized by insecurity, unemployment and inequity, exactly what would be left to defend?

Certainly Ryan and his Republican colleagues will deny that their new budget — like their old budget — would cripple the federal government and render the United States unrecognizable over the coming decades, if implemented. Yet the calculations released by the CBO, a nonpartisan arm of the Congress, permit no other conclusion.

Prepared at the request of Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the House Budget Committee, the CBO report indicates that by 2050, federal spending on all functions — except Social Security, health programs and interest payments — would account for no more than 3.75 percent of gross domestic product. On defense alone, however, we have never spent less than 3 percent of GDP during the past 70 years or so; and during those same years, we have spent no less than 8 percent of GDP on all those functions, including defense.

Which means that should Pentagon spending increase drastically, as both Ryan and likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney insist it should, there will be nothing left for anything else.

"The rest of government would literally have to disappear," as the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities explains dryly. Is it necessary to recite the details, even in broad outline? No more basic research and no more support for technological progress in defense, communications, medicine, manufacturing, energy or education. No more health care, secondary education or vocational training for veterans. No more reconstruction of decaying roads, bridges, airports, waterways, tunnels, seaports or any other infrastructure that states cannot afford to rebuild on their own. No more national parks, which presumably will be sold off to oil companies, resort developers and other commercial predators. No more oversight of the purity of food and drugs, whether domestic or imported. No further enforcement of the environmental statutes that have restored clean air and water in so many places across the country. No more Federal Bureau of Investigation, no more Immigration and Customs Enforcement, no more Department of Homeland Security, no more federal justice system at all. And very little health care, which would be cut by as much as 75 percent, leaving tens of millions without insurance coverage.

Is all this starting to sound slightly weird? That is certainly one way to describe the Ryan budget, which evokes the utopian fantasies of both Karl Marx, who predicted the "withering away of the state" after communism, and Ayn Rand, whose hatred of modern government inspired anarchist (or "minarchist") fantasies among many of her admirers. What is truly bizarre is to watch a major political party produce such a document not once but twice — and then to hear this absurd exercise hailed by venerable Washington commentators as "bold" and "patriotic."

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



5 Comments | Post Comment
Joe's scenario is akin to a family reducing their budget by eliminating groceries, altogether, causing the family to starve to death while spending all their money on entertainment. He is a most irresponsible scare-monger.
Comment: #1
Posted by: David Henricks
Thu Mar 22, 2012 8:53 PM
I agree David. This guy sucks.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:34 AM
Re: David Henricks
I wish I could "like" your post. What he has not mentioned, while attempting to scare everyone, is that Ryan also proposed alternatives to the current systems. While cuts would be made in nearly every governmental area, I am certain self-preservation will cause departments to evaluate how they spend their budgets. And as far as defense spending goes, do people honestly believe technology, such as our stealth bombers, just suddenly springs up? That, like many of our defenses, is the result of DECADES of design and research.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Okie972
Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:36 AM
Re: Okie972

You are right Okie, defense spending is out of control, we already have enough military power to blow the planet up umpteen times, The current war and the last major war, (Vietnam) was fought against village people with rocks, primitive bombs and jungle' fighting. Did and do we really need a new bomb from outer space? Ridiculous. It's just a ploy to feed the defense contracters who make huge political donations. I can't believe how many of the middle class can't afford healthcare or don't qualify for insurance. But, we can cut Medicaid and Medicare from the budget in order to protect sacred cows that are due political contributers. We cut taxes on the wealthy and bloated corporations that don't trickle down to help the economy, they enrich the shareholders and the privately wealthy. Look at the Koch brothers, do you think they are throwing money at the candidate because they are nice guys? They want payback. Money should be out of politics and a national budget should prioritize the needy before the rich. Sadly this country is so corrupt, Ryan can get away with his new budget.

Conservative, Ryan, Mantra, SCREW YOU, I'VE GOT MINE
Comment: #4
Posted by: Bloom Hilda
Fri Mar 30, 2012 5:57 AM
Re: Bloom Hilda

"a national budget should prioritize the needy before the rich."

Um, no. A national budget should prioritize the legitimate functions of the federal government (which, conveniently, some old dead white guy listed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution).
Comment: #5
Posted by: Jeff Gunn
Tue Apr 3, 2012 4:21 AM
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