Ryan's Budget: Preach Austerity, Ignoring Unemployment

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan is going to release his latest budget plan tomorrow. It's not expected to be anything we haven't heard before, except this one comes with a slick new video of Paul Ryan explaining that "[t]his coming debt crisis is the most predictable crisis we’ve ever had in this country."

By focusing on the predictability of the debt crisis, Ryan paints the White House and Congressional Democrats as irresponsible, unaccountable politicians refusing to address the difficult economic problems facing the country.

There will be plenty of room for debate about the details once Ryan releases the actual proposal tomorrow (for those curious, here is our response to his proposal from last year). But I want to emphasize one large point before we launch into another round of debates on budget cuts and austerity measures: Before we start addressing any predictable crises of the future, we absolutely need to resolve our current, actually-existing crisis of unemployment.

Though we've made some progress on job creation lately, it's still going to take until 2020 to get to pre-recession employment levels at our current rate. Meanwhile, young Americans and many workers of color still aren't even benefitting from much of the recent job growth that is taking place.

So it's really absurd to hear Ryan criticizing the Obama administration for not addressing an impending national crisis when he and his GOP colleagues in Congress collectively stood by and refused to take action on President Obama's American Jobs Act announced last fall -- a policy that, while not perfect, would have benefited workers most in need of assistance by supporting new job growth in infrastructure and protecting public sector employment.

Moreover, there is a very real connection between the short-term challenge of job creation and the long-term challenge of bringing down the deficit. The sooner we restore economic growth and get people back to work, the sooner outlays will fall for unemployment and food stamps, and the sooner federal coffers will start to fill up again with tax revenues.

We know that deep cuts to the budget are not going to fix the jobs crisis (for one of the clearest examples of this, see the more than 600,000 public sector workers that have been laid off since the beginning of the recession due primarily to state budget cuts). And with more evidence piling up every day that austerity has been an abysmal failure in the U.K., where growth lagged well behind the U.S. in 2011, why would anyone still be arguing that we should try austerity here?

One last point: With a recent non-partisan analysis showing that most of the GOP presidential candidates advocate policies that would greatly increase the national debt -- Gingrinch would pack on $7 trillion in new debt, Santorum $4.5 trillion -- you might think that Paul Ryan, the supposedly fearless deficit hawk -- would have some unkind words to say about these candidates, since his words are far more likely to have influence here than in the White House.

But have you heard Ryan speak up about the flood of red ink that his fellow Republicans would unleash? Me neither.

And come to think of it, nor do I recall Ryan speaking up much when President Bush swung the U.S. from a budgetary surplus to a deficit and added over $3 trillion to the national debt in eight years.

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