Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget is set to be unveiled Tuesday morning. And as you would expect, the House Budget Committee Chairman and rising GOP star went and did what most members of Congress do before laying out their plans for the nation’s fiscal future.
He cut a trailer.
Wait, what the heck? A trailer?! For a budget?
Paul Ryan: The Movie has more of a Woody Allen flavor than, say, Michael Bay (note the unfortunate absence of explosions). But it does raise an interesting way of thinking about the budget as amoral document.
Why should you care about Paul Ryan’s budget?
Answer: The budget is a major touchstone for Republicans and may be the cornerstone of a vision for the GOP presidential candidate come November.
Let’s back up to last year, for a moment.
In 2011, the first after an electoral landslide put Republicans back into power in the House, Paul Ryan burst onto the scene with a massive budget document that would have fundamentally altered Medicare, cut taxes, and slashed the federal debt by $4.4 trillion over 10 years.
Republicans hailed the plan as a realistic way to solve the nation’s debt problems. Moreover, it was a useful weapon with which to hammer Democrats over their inability to pass their own budget proposal.
Democrats, for their part, took one look at Ryan’s Medicare proposals and tried to make “Ryan budget” synonymous with “end your Medicare” for seniors.
The point of that budget was to lay out a plan.
This year, nearly everybody knows the outline of the plan.As such, it’s much more important to lay out a vision.
In a campaign season, the budget is going to strain to get GOP votes in the House, much less having even a moment’s consideration in a Senate chamber controlled by Democrats. Just look at last year’s trailer - it’s all about Paul Ryan the professor, not Paul Ryan the visionary.
With that in mind, Ryan has recast the budget in terms of a moral calling.
“I was here, in Congress, in 2008, when we had the economic crisis… That crisis caught us by surprise,” Ryan says, a chorus of violins rising ominously in the background. “What if your president, your senator, your congressman knew it was coming.
What if they knew when it was going to happen, why it was going to happen and more importantly what if they knew what they needed to do to stop it from happening — and they had the time to stop it. But they chose to do nothing about it because it wasn’t good politics? What would you think of that person?
It would be immoral.”
Arguing about the morality of leaving debt for America’s children isn’t exactly novel campaign fare - if America had a nickel for every time a member of Congress raised “our children and grandchildren” as a reason to do something, we’d have paid off the national debt a long time ago.
But taken in the context of what Paul Ryan believes the country needs in November, its an interesting point. Ryan has argued over and over again that the US needs an “affirming” election, where the two candidates stake our clear positions such that the American public can offer a clear mandate to fix the nation’s fiscal problems.
Winning by default, he says, is not an option.
That’s where the budget comes in. It’s a bright (moral) line that the GOP could use to highlight how it thinks America should solve its long-term financial challenges.
Will Democrats do the same? Will Republicans pick it up? We’ll be watching.
— David Grant / @DW_Grant