Friday, March 17, 2017

Bialystock's Paradox: Paul Ryan, Supergenius edition

Paul Krugman makes an essential point about the press's favorite serious Republican idea man:
Start with Ezra Klein, who speculates that Ryan has advanced this ludicrous plan in the hope and expectation that it won’t pass. His reasoning is that Ryan is too skilled an operator to get caught off-guard as he seems to have:

    Paul Ryan isn’t an amateur. He is, arguably, the most skilled policy entrepreneur of his generation. He is known for winning support from political actors and policy validators who normally reject his brand of conservatism. The backing he’s built for past proposals comes from painstaking work talking to allies, working on plans with them, preparing them for what he’ll release, hearing out their concerns, constructing processes where they feel heard, and so on. He’s good at this kind of thing. But he didn’t put in the work here. And there are consequences to that.

But has Ryan ever put together major legislation with any real chance of passage? Yes, he made a name for himself with big budget proposals that received adoring press coverage. But these were never remotely operational — they were filled not just with magic asterisks — tax loophole closing to be determined later, cost savings to be achieved via means to be determined later — but with elements, like converting Medicare into a voucher system, that would have drawn immense flack if they got anywhere close to actually happening.

In other words, he has never offered real plans for overhauling social insurance, just things that sound like plans but are basically just advertisements for some imaginary plan that might eventually be produced. Actually pulling together a coalition to get stuff done? Has he ever managed that?

What I’d say is that Ryan is not, in fact, a policy entrepreneur. He’s just a self-promoter, someone who has successfully sold a credulous media on a character he plays: Paul Ryan, Serious, Honest Conservative Policy Wonk. This is really his first test at real policymaking, which is a very different process. There’s nothing strange about his inability to pull off the real thing, as opposed to the act.

Picking up the Producers thread again, Ryan's accounting has only slipped by up to this point because he was never involved with a hit. As long as his budgets and proposals had no real chance of passing, they had no real chance of facing serious scrutiny.

Yes, that is a relatively youthful William Hickey.

1 comment:

  1. The media are still talking to Kellyanne Conway, who blatantly and consistently lies about things that anyone with a 2-digit IQ or higher can fact check. Can we seriously expect them to call BS on Paul Ryan, a charlatan who can throw around the professional jargon and go through the motions well enough to create the appearance of being the real thing?

    We need as a society to face up to the reality that our media are, for the most part, unreliable and incompetent, and in thrall to those who wield power.