Saturday, June 4, 2016

What Paul Ryan needs in a president

Given my earlier references to Altamont and the violence at Trump rallies, I'll get to the violence from his protesters soon.  For now, let's talk about Paul Ryan.

Ryan endorsed Trump.  Finally.  Sort of.  This has been a bind for him.  A Clinton presidency would have been a disaster for him as Speaker.  Paul Ryan will need to raise the debt ceiling.  The Representatives whom former Speaker John Boehner called the "knuckleheads" will demand that Ryan use the debt ceiling to extract concessions.  Clinton will refuse.  Ryan will cave.  Lather, rinse, repeat until Ryan is ousted, just like Boehner.  He needs a Republican president.

Which brings us to what we need in a president.  Here's Grover Norquist from 2012.

Grover Norquist's sole mission in life is to cut taxes.  He talks here about spending cuts, but those aren't the point for him.  Norquist is the guy who asks every Republican candidate for Congress to sign a pledge saying that they will never, under any circumstances, under pain of tortuous death for themselves, their families, friends and puppies, vote for any bill that raises taxes.

He wants tax cuts.  He will sacrifice anything for tax cuts.  Abortion?  Norquist doesn't care.  Gay marriage?  Irrelevant.  The only thing he cares about is cutting taxes.

Norquist is a true believer in the premise that tax cuts produce enough economic growth to outweigh anything else, and that taxes are theft, at the point of the government's gun.  And let's be honest here.  I make jokes about the guy, but go back to John Maynard Keynes.  Tax cuts spur economic growth.  Among economists, there isn't any debate on that point.  There is debate on how much growth they spur, compared to spending, their effects on interest rates, etc., but tax cuts spur growth.  And taxes really are the government pointing a gun at you and telling you to give them money, or they will haul you off to prison, and maybe shoot you if you resist.

If you don't see the intrinsically morally grey nature of that threat, then you are too blinded by a love of wealth redistribution to think clearly.  Go hit yourself on the head a few times.  I'll wait...

The point is that Norquist comes down cleanly on the "taxes are theft" side of that moral quandary, and not coincidentally, believes that tax cuts are economically beneficial.

And so does Paul Ryan.  The question for Paul Ryan is, does he care about anything else?  Paul Ryan needs a president who: a) won't put him in a debt ceiling bind, and b) has those "working digits" that Grover mentioned to sign Ryan's budget.  What is he willing to sacrifice for that?

A lot.  The reason Paul Ryan waited so long, and struggled with the concept of endorsing Trump is that while Ryan is a true believer, Trump is not.  When Paul Ryan looks at Donald Trump, he sees a fraud, who knows nothing about government, public policy or foreign affairs, a megalomaniacal racist/misogynist who is exploiting people's fears, and a fool with poor impulse control, making him fundamentally unfit for a position of real power and responsibility.

In other words, every critique that liberals make about Donald Trump, Paul Ryan believes them, as does every serious conservative.  Ryan just can't say it that bluntly because he needs a Republican president, who won't put him in a debt ceiling bind, and will sign the tax cut bills that Ryan will send him.

This is all about Norquist's working digits theory of what we need in a president.  If only Trump can wrap his tiny, tiny fingers around the pen...

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