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Democratic Demagoguery on the Budget

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One reason Democratic policies have made America such a worry-free land these last couple of years is the uniqueness of Democratic gifts and abilities. For instance, did you know Democratic spokesmen can see into the future?

Well, they can. Days before House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Republican, was to lay out his $4 trillion plan for controlling federal spending and reviving the economy, Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) knew what was in it. He had odor, flavor and contents down pat. Not a bite of it would we want to ingest. Trust him.

Congressman Van Hollen -- whose most recent brush with success was directing Democratic efforts last year to keep the House of Representatives out of Republican hands -- knew from instinct or bird entrails that Ryan was up to no good. He squinted, he blanched, he frothed. What Ryan wanted, Van Hollen declared, is "to protect tax breaks for millionaires, oil companies and other big money special interests, while slashing our investment in education, ending the current health guarantee for seniors on Medicare, and denying health care to tens of millions of Americans."

Nothing else could be in Ryan's mind, of course. He's a Republican. Republicans love the rich man and the rich man only. That's to say, so far as Democrats are concerned, they love only the rich. Notice the number of rich men whose votes -- must have been several thousand of them -- flipped more than 60 House seats to the GOP: over Congressman Van Hollen's earnest expostulations, natch.

The more it changes, the more it's the same, the Frenchman said -- without ever having heard of a Democratic leader desirous that we should ignore a good-faith effort to balance the country's books because, well, no Republican could possibly say anything a faithful Democrat would want to listen to.

Herewith my own prediction for the future: It's going to be a long, long 19 months as we tread the highway to November 2012. Nonetheless, we might somewhere along the way, reasoning as an electorate, start to figure out a few useful things. This would not be in spite of the expostulations and warnings of Van Hollen and his like. It would be on account of them.

After a time, you really must hope that the spectacle of grown men talking nonsense gets to be a drag and an irritation. If it doesn't, we're in trouble. If it does, Congressman Van Hollen and the Democrats who choose to plow his furrow will deepen our appreciation of the First Amendment right to make a fool of one's self.

It's the mendacious stereotyping, first of all -- reminiscent of Ted Kennedy's tirade nearly 25 years ago concerning of a comeback for racism should Robert Bork win Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court. Van Hollen finds he just has to stick out his tongue at a Republican trying to solve a problem. The habit is engrained in certain party leaders.

There's more, though, and worse. Congressman Van Hollen's own idea for slowing the runaway debt train is ... is ... well, come on, man, out with it. Whatcha gonna do yourself to help? Call for Slurpees all round?

The gentleman from Maryland isn't obligated to like the Ryan plan. He's got, as I see it, three obligations:

-- To acknowledge a sincere attempt to solve a national problem, viz., the prospect of national bankruptcy.

-- To offer or support -- in the event he thinks the Ryan response wrong or futile -- a more constructive alternative.

-- To avoid insulting the intelligence of people who suppose that even a Republican might have something to say worth hearing.

Talking things over among ourselves as a citizenry, as hopelessly romantic as the idea may seem, is the indicated strategy for coming to some agreement. Numerous voters in 2008 hoped Sen. Barack Obama might further that salutary impulse. One sees in this semi-precedent a useful model for moving forward: less carping; a minimum of old-fashioned demagoguing; some serious attention -- at last -- to the job at hand.

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