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The Paul Ryan Budget: Return of the Thing


Here's the beauty of Paul Ryan's new budget, the one saving grace amongst all the horrific awfulness it promises for the country: nobody gives a shit about it.

If you've been plugged into the political wing of the internet at all over the past couple of days, you wouldn't be blamed for thinking it was 2012 -- or even 2011 -- all over again. That's because Paul Ryan has rolled out the new GOP budget for this year and it looks suspiciously like every other budget he's rolled out since the Republicans put him in charge of such things and the beltway media inexplicably decided that he deserves to be taken seriously rather than laughed out of town. At this point, Ryan budgets -- all middle-class-screwing austerity in the name of tax breaks for the rich and attempts to gut America's social safety net -- drop with the regularity of a beloved series of Hollywood epics filmed back-to-back. It's like the GOP is Peter Jackson and the Ryan budget is The Lord of the Rings -- if The Lord of the Rings sucked.

What's interesting about the new Ryan budget, which is, again, the old Ryan budget, is what it says about the way the GOP thinks in general. There's been a lot of talk in the wake of the budget release that points to the fact that the Republicans are behaving as if they never lost the election, as if the ideas they ferociously campaigned on weren't summarily shot down by a large portion of the American public. The truth is, the Republican mindset post-election should surprise no one because it's pretty much par for the course when you look at the overall GOP philosophy of the past few decades. It's like this: the Republicans are intransigent in their ideas because they consider any ideas not theirs -- any legislative or electoral victory for their opponents -- to be illegitimate and not what the American people really want. If the Republicans fail, it's because of bad messaging or a bad candidate -- not because their policy notions are shit.

It's easy to see this when you consider the number of losses the conservative movement has suffered over the past fifty years that it's not letting go of, that it's continuing to fight and refight no matter how many times it gets smacked down. It boggles the mind to think that the GOP is still trying to whittle away at Roe v. Wade. And the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And women's rights. And gay rights. And Social Security. And so on and so on. These are things that were ostensibly decided decades ago but as far as conservatives are concerned, the defeats they endured were only temporary setbacks. They'll never just walk away and accept that they lost and that most voters like the abortion laws the way they are; they want Social Security and the social safety net to remain in place; they think all Americans deserve equal treatment and protection under the law. The very thought of this is anathema to conservatives and the party that represents them.

The truth is that the battle to see America remade in their image will never end. We'll be fighting this culture war forever because, barring some Saul-on-the-Road-To-Damascus-style conversion that'll make conservatives wake up and realize that this country is about compromise, that not every political battle can be fought and won, and that their way isn't the only legitimate way, they'll simply never give up.

The new Ryan budget not only offers the same ideas that were soundly rejected by the voters back in November, it also assumes, with near-comical arrogance, that President Obama's Affordable Care Act will be repealed. Why this presupposition? Because Ryan knows what many conservative political adversaries don't seem to grasp: the Republicans will never stop fighting to make it so. The battle over "Obamacare" will be going on 40 years from now. You can count on it. It's the way it always has been and likely always will be.

The best we can hope for is, as with the new Ryan budget, nobody will care because we'll have heard the same tune played many times before.

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