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Filtering budget fiction through the 'BFZ'

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opinion Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

A colleague shared with me a comment that gave him a good laugh. He was following an online discussion on the pros and cons of an NFZ (No Fly Zone) in Libya.

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A young man said, "A No Fly Zone is OK. But what we really need is a Bull-Free Zone" (BFZ).

Now we come to the budget cuts and, well, you catch my drift. There is nothing in Washington that needs a BFZ more than the current stalemate between Republicans and Democrats on the national budget and what to do about the deficits.

Let's examine the most recent, and most publicized, budget proposal put forward by House Republican budget chairman Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. This will give us a look at why we need a tiny BFZ around Washington.

I have great respect for Rep. Ryan. He is a man of deep convictions who worries about the growing national debt and structural imbalances in our budget. Many of our leaders share his concerns, but not how Ryan reaches his goals. However, it does take moxie to take on the entitlements (Medicare and Social Security). Ryan has moxie in spades.

That very quality is what saddened me when I saw that he chose, on Fox Sunday News, to place his innovative conservative approach to budget cutting, squarely within a partisan framework.

Claim: In promoting his budget plan, Ryan told Fox viewers, "We are we are giving (Democrats) a political weapon to go against us," he said. "But they will have to lie and demagogue to make it a weapon."

His statement is a little puzzling. He acknowledges his budget to be a partisan "weapon." Then, Ryan falls immediately into partisanship, saying Democrats have to be bad guys to oppose it.

BFZ: There can be, and are, honest, principled, differences about the policy -- largely ideological -- regarding Ryan's budget cuts. And yes, Democrats might be opposed to Ryan's proposals based on principles as well as the underlying math.

Honestly now, millions of average citizens who vote as independents or Republicans can challenge Ryan's budget assumptions without having to "lie and demagogue." So can President Obama. So can the Democrats.

Claim: Rep. Ryan's budget, the Republicans say, will slash $4.3 trillion from the budget over the next 10 years but will not produce a balanced budget until the 2030s. Ryan takes on entitlements.

BFZ: Right, right and wrong. Ryan's budget takes on a lone entitlement: Medicare. He guts it. Ryan's plan effectively does not touch Social Security.

Claim: Christian Science Monitor: "Making (Medicare) something seniors purchase from their own pockets would unleash the power of free-market competition," according to Ryan.

BFZ: Translation: Ryan unleashes the private health care insurance companies, who get a green light to run the whole kit and caboodle. They will be "lightly regulated."

This type of "free-market competition" allowed Wall Street's Bernie Madoff to defraud thousands of investors and helped produce the 2008 Great Recession. Ryan's so-called free enterprise permitted banks to construct a still-teetering housing market.

Claim: Ryan's (fill in name of your health insurance company) would run Medicare. Therefore, through competition, "Customers would gravitate to programs that offered higher value or greater quality."

BFZ: According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysis, the cost of the "median 65-year-old's income" under Ryan's plan will take 35 percent of his or her income. By the year 2050, a senior will be paying a whopping 68 percent of his or her income for Ryan's 'Medicare.'

Claim: Ryan has shown mind-blowing courage in taking on Medicare.

BFZ: Ryan showed moxie (energy, know-how). He has not shown courage (facing danger without fear). Our nation's seniors are its most vulnerable population. They are our grandparents who, of all the population, are the least able to defend themselves from an organized political assault to benefit big business.

But Ryan's budget places the greatest burden -- two-thirds of the cuts -- on the shoulders of average Americans of modest means.

Yet Ryan extends a tax cut special-made for just 1 percent of the American population. It guarantees the very rich a $1 trillion tax cut over 10 years. The average American, 99 percent of the public, is not eligible for this billionaire's tax holiday

The Bush tax cuts for the very rich, extended this last December with the help of Democrats, were in effect before, and so far, through the Great Recession. The cuts produced no jobs. Plus, the Bush tax cuts for the Donald Trumps of this world allowed Trump and friends to capture two-thirds of the nation's earned income.

It sounds to me as if the average taxpayer is the one who's going to need the courage to stomach a potential government shutdown and all these ridiculous budget proposals.

Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and NPR, and a contributing columnist to Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill.

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