Democrats Gave Paul Ryan an Inch and Now He Is Trying to Take a Mile

paul ryan

There is an idiom, “Give somebody an inch and they’ll take a mile” that means if you allow someone to behave badly at all, they will start to behave very badly; especially when it involves making concessions. One can excuse someone for making concessions to a party they believe will not take the act of conceding as a sign of weakness, start behaving very badly, and take more until there is nothing left to take, but there is no excuse for conceding anything to bad actors dedicated to taking everything. Such is the state of Democrats who made concessions to Republicans in the recent bicameral negotiations resulting in a bad budget agreement that House Democrats approved to avert a government shutdown in January. The agreement typifies the idiom that because Democrats gave Paul Ryan and Republicans an inch, they will take a mile, and that is what Ryan said yesterday before the agreement is even approved in the Senate and signed by the President setting it in stone for two years.

Ryan, the new face of “compassionate conservatism,” went on Fox News yesterday and said what many predicted the GOP would do when Congress must act to prevent the United States from defaulting on its debts; extract more concessions from Democrats. Ryan said, “We as a caucus — along with our Senate counterparts — are going to meet and discuss what it is we’re going to want out of the debt limit. We don’t want nothing out of this debt limit. We’re going to decide what it is we’re going to accomplish out of this debt limit fight.” Ryan even revealed that Republicans were planning on concessions they will demand for doing their Constitutional duty and pay debts Congress already ran up; in part for billions in oil, church, and agriculture subsidies, but that is another story.

According to Ryan, Republicans will decide what their list of concessions and ransom demands as a payment for raising the debt limit will be when House and Senate Republicans “meet in our retreats after the holidays and discuss exactly what it is we’re going to get for this.” Ryan even had the temerity to complain that “One of the problems and concerns I have with the debt limit is: We don’t know when it’s going to hit. Jack Lew, the treasury secretary, has ultimate discretion on when this could occur. So the timing of this is very much in doubt.” Apparently unlike most working Americans, Republicans get to enjoy a couple of weeks of underserved time off from work during their holiday hiatus and cannot depend on Treasury Secretary Lew to give them a firm date that may interfere with their plans to draw up their list of ransom concessions from Democrats during their retreats.

Democrats already conceded more than an inch to Republicans in the budget agreement, but as the saying goes, give them most of the Path to Prosperity budget proposals, and they will take the rest during the debt ceiling crisis in 2014. Democrats already gave them steeper spending cuts than Ryan’s barbaric budget called for, let them keep 99.6% of their precious sequester in place, enacted cuts to entitlement programs, let them take unemployment benefits from 1.3 million jobless Americans, and gave them $41 billion in federal employee and veteran’s pensions. Yes, it is more than “an inch” worth of concessions, but it informed Republicans they could take more in 2014 in the form of Path to Prosperity ransom demands. Sadly, although Democrats gave Republicans more cuts than Ryan’s budget demanded, the real damage is due when they hold the debt ceiling hostage.

Maybe Democrats don’t remember what the Path to Prosperity entailed, but they will get a stark reminder when Republicans hand over their list of demands to do their jobs and pay the debts they racked up over the past 12 years. Debt for unfunded tax cuts for the rich, two unfunded wars, hundreds of billions in no-bid contracts to Cheney’s company Halliburton, and a prohibitively expensive gift to big pharma in Bush’s Medicare prescription plan. What Ryan did not get in the budget agreement was Medicare privatization, steep cuts to Social Security, raising the retirement age, deep cuts to Medicaid, $133 billion in cuts to SNAP (food stamps), tax hikes on the poor, and massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations. Those items will be on the list of concessions Republicans demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling that many, many Americans fail to understand is fundamentally unconstitutional.

The debt ceiling, debt limit, whatever Republicans call it is not in the Constitution. It is a legislative construct that Republicans have used to extract concessions from Democrats in the form of Draconian cuts affecting the poor and tax gifts for the richest 2% of income earners. The Constitution is very clear that the “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, shall not be questioned;” including for “the payment of pensions” Republicans convinced Democrats to steal from military retirees and government employees’ to reduce the unquestionable public debt. Now, Ryan admitted Republicans will demand more concessions because since Barack Obama has been President, the GOP routinely questions the validity of the public debt. It is a mystery why the President, or any Democrat, has not told the American people that questioning the validity of the nation’s debt is unconstitutional; and remind them the Republicans questioning it swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.

President Obama said just over a month ago that he would not negotiate with Republicans over the nation’s debt, and Treasury Secretary Lew said “they should just extend the debt limit way in advance and not have any sense of crisis at all.” That was before Democrats gave Republicans more than an inch in the budget agreement, and when the crisis over raising the debt ceiling comes up in a couple of months, Ryan and company will be there with a list of concessions they expect Democrats to meet. If the past week is any indication, that list will be everything in the Path to Prosperity Democrats did not concede last week. If any American thinks it will not happen, just consider that Ryan said “we are going to meet and discuss exactly what it is we’re going to get out of the debt limit” before the budget agreement is even signed into law. Democrats allowed Republicans to behave badly and Ryan just said they will behave very badly and hold the debt limit hostage until his Path to Prosperity ransom is paid. It is what happens when the Party that won the last election conceded and let Republicans think they won; obviously they did.

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