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Second-rate Clinton

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"Paul Ryan is worse than Bill Clinton." Well of course, you say; the former president is clearly bigger-brained and bigger-hearted than the Wisconsin congressman. What's new?

What's new, and newsworthy, is the identity of the person pronouncing sentence on Ryan. It's Mark Hinkle, chairman of the Libertarian Party, a fiscally conservative crowd and not at all fond of Clinton. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the Republican Party's go-to guy on budget matters these days, professes fiscal conservatism himself, but the Libertarians aren't buying. They note that the Republicans want to spend $4 trillion a year. "As recently as 2000 [the last year of the Clinton administration], federal spending was only about $1.8 trillion. ... In 2021, Paul Ryan still wants the feds to be spending 19.9 percent of GDP. That's a higher percentage than during Bill Clinton's second term. In 1997, federal spending was 19.5 percent of GDP, and it dropped to 18.2 percent by 2000."

Ryan would continue overspending on the military, and keep cutting taxes for the rich, neither of which will help balance a budget. Any spending cuts would be at the expense of the poor, the sick, and the elderly. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is in rare agreement with the Libertarians when he says, "The GOP budget plan isn't a good-faith effort to put America's fiscal house in order." But he's even more dismissive, calling Ryan's proposal "voodoo economics, with an extra dose of fantasy, and a large helping of mean-spiritedness." Only a Washington pundit could like it. Several do, sharing the Republicans' belief that working people have it too easy.

That is the guiding principle of Wisconsin's union-busting governor, Scott Walker, who tries to sow resentment among struggling low-wage non-union workers because public-sector unionists live like middle-class Americans, with decent health care and retirement benefits. Walker's idea is to push those workers down, rather than pull the others up. What has happened, one wonders, to Wisconsin, once an enlightened and progressive state. Who would ever have thought that Arkansas would have the better government and Wisconsin the better football team? (The last time we played them, anyway.)

There are well-heeled people in Arkansas who share Walker's dream, people with much who fiercely resist other people's having any. They often call their selfishness "reform," as in "tort reform" and "education reform." The teachers' union is the biggest and most productive in Arkansas. Busting that union, requiring all teachers to remain poor and servile, is what the "education reformers" of this state want. They don't want higher test scores nearly as much as they want the teachers' heads, hanging on the wall.

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