Wednesday, April 01, 2009


GOP congressman Paul Ryan's alternative budget (PDF) has been mocked for a lot of reasons, from its deceptive deficit assumptions to its wacky charts. But I want to point out one more problem: it's apparently written by someone who can read a book and then subsequently quote that book without having the slightest idea what the author wrote.

Before getting to the numbers, Ryan's budget damns Democratic social programs. Ryan tells us, with horror, that President Obama and congressional Democrats "are attempting nothing less than to implement the third and final great wave of government expansion, building on the New Deal and the Great Society."

Ryan says it's critical to "restore the role of individual Americans" -- his emphasis -- because competing in the global marketplace "requires building on the individual's central role in American society." To support this argument, Ryan turns to a quote from Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat:

If this moment has any parallel in American history, it is the height of the Cold War, around 1957, when the Soviet Union leaped ahead of America in the space race by putting up the Sputnik satellite. Yes, there are many differences between that age and our own. The main challenge then came from those who wanted to put up walls; the main challenge to America today comes from the fact that all the walls are being taken down, and other countries can now compete with us much more directly. The main challenge in that world was from those practicing extreme communism -- namely, Russia, China, and North Korea. The main challenge to America today is from those practicing extreme capitalism -- namely, China, India, and South Korea. The main objective in that era was building a strong state; the main objective in this era is building strong individuals.

What Ryan doesn't quote is what Friedman writes immediately after that:

In other words, Ryan quotes Friedman even though Friedman is advocating precisely the sort of government intervention Ryan thinks is destructive to individual initiative -- and, therefore, to America (and civilization) as we know it.

I'm not saying that Friedman is a great progressive -- but he ain't a Randroid, either. And Ryan either can't read well enough to grasp that or assumes you can't.

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