They Are Crazy Ideas And They Should Be Dismissed
In the latest example of the "having an utterly pointless debate between lunatic rightwingers and moderates is good for the country" trope, here's Joe Nocera:
Ryan’s budget plan would reduce the size of government from the current 24 percent of gross domestic product to around 20 percent of G.D.P. The ax would fall most heavily on programs for the poor. As the opinion writer Matt Miller put it recently in The Washington Post, “Over time, Ryan’s ‘vision’ would decimate most federal activities beyond Social Security, Medicare and defense.”
Simply dismissing these ideas as crazy is a mistake. There are many people in the country who agree with Ryan — as they showed two years ago, when they elected 87 Republican freshmen, many of them Tea Party-backed political novices, to the House of Representatives, who went to Washington vowing to shrink the federal government.
This is cowardly writing, and Nocera knows it. What he actualy seems to be saying is, "Ryan's ideas are screaming yellow bonkers, but a lot of people voted for them." In other words, Nocera's saying that it's not crazy to dismiss these crazy ideas - they are, after all, you know, nuts, as David Stockman trenchantly describes on the same page - but we should be aware that lots of people have voted for them and therefore we should pay attention to the ideas and discuss them.
That doesn't make any sense. I wonder whether or not people voted for the crazy ideas themselves or the packaging in which the ideas were wrapped, ie populist rage. I strongly suspect more the latter than the former. If so, then engaging Ryan merely provides his proposals a status they don't deserve, moving them to the center of the discourse where they don't belong. As those of us involved in fighting the good fight against creationism know, this is a hoary rightwing strategy called Teach the Controversy, a deeply cynical maneuver because, in reality, there is no controversy. But the point is to make creationism appear as equally valid as evolution. But scientists, to their credit, do dismiss creationism, and with very rare exceptions and only in specific ways, the best scientists don't fall into the trap of engaging creationists over their ideas.
In short, Ryan's incoherent Randian notions - they're not even ideas - can and should be dismissed. Instead of having a debate, which merely elevates the status of his nonsense, we should mock him, jeer him, laugh at him, and react with disgust that our discourse has sunk to such a level that such garbage has been adopted as sober policy by a once-great political party.
But don't dismiss the impact of the marketing and packaging that enabled Ryan's stupidities to gain such traction.