All Hail the Secret Austerity Czar

Our Glibertarian overlords have big plans for the 112th Congress. Despite wedging on about loving the Constitution, transparency, Government by the people, populism, deficits, etc., etc., etc.–the Leaders of the incoming Republican Confederate Party House majority have shown their fidelity to the oligarchs by crafting rules designed to blow holes into any effort to balance the budget while still transferring yet more wealth from the poor and middle class to the richest in the land.

A recent editorial in the NYTs explained the madness of the new rules:

The new Republican rules will gut pay-as-you-go because they require offsets only for entitlement increases, not for tax cuts. In effect, the new rules will codify the Republican fantasy that tax cuts do not deepen the deficit.

It gets worse. The new rules mandate that entitlement-spending increases be offset by spending cuts only — and actually bar the House from raising taxes to pay for such spending.

And just before Christmas the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities identified an even larger problem with the new rules. It seems that these rules would make Glibertarian fanboy, Paul Ryan, a super secret and all powerful Austerity Czar.


As Think Progress noted these new powers would let Austerity Czar Ryan “unilaterally set spending levels that are binding on the House, and any attempt to lessen the impact of these cuts can be ruled out of order”. Under the terms of this extraConstitutional power grab, Czar Ryan could force cuts to popular programs like Social Security without anybody else in Congress having a chance to read, debate or change the Austerity Czar’s cuts.

As the long Holiday week winds down more and more folks are noticing this fundamental attack on the way our democracy should work. More and more folks, like Steve Benen, are sounding the alarm. And the Democrats in Congress are letting the incoming lapdogs of the elites know that their attempt at this power grab will meet some resistance. As Chris Van Hollen’s office told The Hill:

“Allowing incoming Chairman Ryan to have unilateral power to set spending limits — instead of subjecting those limits to a vote on the floor of the House — flies in the face of promises by House Republicans to have the most transparent and honest Congress in history,” said Doug Thornell, spokesman for incoming House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), in an e-mailed statement.

“Unfortunately, the House GOP is reverting back to the same arrogant governing style they implemented when they last held the majority and turned a surplus into a huge deficit,” he added.

This is a developing story to watch and how this power grab is framed and reported will give one a good idea of easy things will be for Czar Ryan and his oligarch pay masters in the 112th Congress.

2011 should be an interesting year.

Have fun welcoming it in.





In a stylistic homage to Tom Levenson I include the image of Ivan the Terrible showing off his riches from the The Muscovy Trading Company to an English Ambassador of Queen Elizabeth I. The kind of elite controlled financial system that old Ivan the Terrible had in Russia is the system that Czar Ryan and the Republican Confederate Party House majority are striving to replicate with these new rules.

The 1875 painting, Ivan IV of Russia Shows His Treasury to Jerome Horsey, is by Alexander Litovchenko and hangs in Russian Museum of St. Petersburg (which is an excellent museum to visit if you’re ever in old Leningrad).

51 replies
  1. 1
  2. 2

    What will the “Keep your hands off my Medicare/Social Security!” crowd have to say about this?

  3. 3
    El Cid says:

    I would say that on the plus side, people would get to even more strongly experience the policies of the House they elected (even though only a few of them did).

    However, it would still seem to me to be more likely that more Republicans will be elected in 2012 because of such sentiments because no matter what the polling is on which party people blame, there will be some sort of stupid reaction in which the Republican House’s causing awful problem turns out at voting time to just mean problems with ‘government’, so, let’s a whole lot of us just flush the country down the drain by putting more of the neo-Confederate arsonists in office.

  4. 4

    I read this over at WaMo, and I just shook my head in amazed disgust (or disgusted amazement). We have to do this stupid dance yet again? Gaaaaaah!

    @El Cid: Sadly, I think you are correct in your assessment.

  5. 5
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @M. Bouffant:

    Given that Social Security and Medicare are gifts from the baby Jeebus, and not government programs, they usual gang of idiots will not blame the Rethugs for their woes.

  6. 6
    Mike in NC says:

    Czar Ryan could force cuts to popular programs like Social Security without anybody else in Congress having a chance to read, debate or change the Austerity Czar’s cuts.

    For months now, I haven’t been able to open the local crappy newspaper without seeing Letters to the Editor sent in by Tea Party nutjobs who all whine about the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and Obama’s czars. It’s like they were told by Limbaugh or Beck or some other Hate Radio idiot that there are hundreds of these unelected, unaccountable fucking “czars” in the Big Gummint in Washington trying to trample on their precious liberties.

  7. 7
    Robert says:

    Did I miss a memo or something?

    When did Czars become OK?

    I thought Czars were a horrible usurpation of power. At least that’s what the wingnuts were screaming recently…

  8. 8
    somethingblue says:

    And the Democrats in Congress are letting the incoming lapdogs of the elites know that …

    Geez. Now they’re writing sternly worded letters to themselves?

  9. 9
    beltane says:

    @M. Bouffant: They will say you are teh sosha-list, that’s what they’ll say. The Republicans could take everything they own and toss them out on the street and they’d still crawl over broken glass to vote for them.

  10. 10
    sb says:

    If I’m reading this correctly–I am impaired by early drinking so forgive me if I sound pig-ignorant here–spending will be set by one lawmaker, period. No votes, no debate–Paul Ryan sets teh spending levels for the country. Is that accurate?

    What I just typed is too difficult for me to believe so I hope I’m wrong. But if true, this country is truly (expletive)ed.

  11. 11
    beltane says:

    Now that they have chosen a czar, it would seem that they are redundant. Should people who work be forced to pay the salaries and generous health benefits of all these redundant GOP reps?

    Republicans are the E.coli in America’s hamburger meat.

  12. 12
    MTiffany says:

    Ok, let’s forget about changing the rules of the Senate. I think Weeper Boehner ought to have a nice heaping dose of Democratic anonymous Senate holds on all Republic legislative initiatives passed by the House.

  13. 13
  14. 14
    David Brooks (not that one) says:

    @Robert: But he’s only called a czar by Dennis here. Fox doesn’t call him a czar, therefore he isn’t one. So, no problem.

  15. 15
    Dennis G. says:

    And that’s why he gets to be Czar Ryan the Terrible…

  16. 16
    Mark S. says:


    It’s not exactly clear to me either. From the TP article:

    Indeed, under the proposed rules, if the House and Senate do not agree on a budget resolution (a distinct possibility with a divided Congress), Ryan will be able to unilaterally set spending levels that are binding on the House, and any attempt to lessen the impact of these cuts can be ruled out of order.

    Do all the House goopers really want to give that much power to Ayn Rand, Jr? Well, they’re pretty used to doing whatever their leadership tells them.

  17. 17
    Mnemosyne says:


    I thought Czars were a horrible usurpation of power. At least that’s what the wingnuts were screaming recently…

    It’s the usual double backflip from Republicans: they take a complaint and distort it beyond recognition to justify their own actions. As in, “Well, you didn’t have a problem with Obama appointing all of his own czars, so why do you have a problem with ours?”

    The fact that there’s a difference between the executive branch appointing someone to an office with Congressional approval and a single member of Congress getting veto power over the entire budget will get handwaved away because, hey, they’re both czars, so if you didn’t complain about Obama’s czars, you can’t complain about Ryan.

  18. 18
    JPL says:

    All I want for New Years is a news media that will cover this. Well that’s not gonna happen so maybe it’s time for a movie and a glass of wine.

    Happy New Years!

  19. 19
    John O says:

    These kind of “rational depressionist” posts are why I love BJ.

    My brothers and I went bananas and took care of my parents’ horrible TV situation, both living room and bedroom TV being ancient and shitty. So we got them two for Christmas. (Now they’re only a couple years behind instead of like, 15). Today was installation day, and it was 5 hours worth at least, and the rest of us had a good laugh, among other things, at my folks’ need to relearn their own AV system. Mom was writing stuff down to switch between DVD and TV. Good food and time had by all.

    So I just got home and the cat and dog and I are going to have quiet, drinky BJ NYE to ourselves.

  20. 20
    Dollared says:

    @beltane: Unfortunately, Democrats are the healthful but unappetizing soy protein filler.

  21. 21
    Skepticat says:

    ” … flies in the face of promises by House Republicans …”

    And what, pray tell, does not?

  22. 22
    Uloborus says:

    My understanding is that it means that when the House sends a budget to the Senate, if the House doesn’t agree quickly enough then Ryan gets to make his own proposal and send that. The Senate – and Obama – still get to give him the middle finger back. However, this is my VERY shaky understanding, and I hope we have an expert here who can be more concrete!

  23. 23
    The Raven says:

    I want to see Obama get up and decry this publicly. Oh, wait…

  24. 24
    Sly says:

    Giving one chairman the right to set spending levels will in no way create one of the largest conflicts of interest in congressional history. I mean, its not like Mr. Ryan will be able to use that power to secure the votes of other representatives on matters that are beneficial to himself and his district in exchange for “overlooking” certain amendments that would otherwise be declared, under his discretion, out of order.

    Tom DeLay would be proud.

  25. 25
    Uloborus says:

    @The Raven:
    Yeah. It sucks that when he does, like he did with every other GOP lie over the last two years, the media will skip over it and you won’t even know he did exactly what you’re asking him to do now.

  26. 26
    The Sheriff's A Ni- says:

    @The Raven: Aw geez, not this shit again.

  27. 27
    Dennis G. says:

    Grifters always return to reruns of the same cons and the rubes never catch on as long as you distract them with the whiteness of your pitch.

  28. 28
    The Sheriff's A Ni- says:

    @Uloborus: The GOP just put Ryan on the front lines of the coming budget wars. The Party of No strikes again.

  29. 29
    Joseph Nobles says:

    These rule changes in the House must always be talked about when discussing the upcoming filibuster reform in the Senate.

  30. 30
    Citizen Alan says:

    Wow, this Paul Ryan guy sure seems like a complete asshole. It sure was a pity that the Democrats couldn’t be buggered to have anyone to run against him. Anyone at all — not even token opposition that would only have gotten 25% of the vote but who might possibly have at least shone some light on what a crazy, Ayn Rand-worshiping SOB he is. I sure do hope President Obama doesn’t do anything silly like appoint a Blue Ribbon commission that Ryan can get appointed to so he can demagogue against the social safety net or anything.

  31. 31
    Uloborus says:

    …you know, I usually think John and Doug go *too far* out of their way to give the middle finger to the More-Liberal-Than-Thou Anti-Obama Squad, but damn. We’re up to comment 30 on an UTTERLY unrelated thread, and already two people have shown up to somehow try and make this a reflection on Obama being a bad president. ODS is real.

  32. 32
    goatchowder says:

    “What will the keep-your-government-out-of-my-Medicare nuts say about this?”

    They will blame Obama and defeat him in 2012.

    Since nobody in this country seems to have taken a fucking civics class or have even the most basic understanding of how our own government works– or is supposed to– they think we have an elected dictatorship and the President is in charge, so anything that happens or doesn’t happen is his fault. They will simply believe what FAUX tells them, which is that Obama cut their Medicare.

    Don’t believe me? That’s how they got into office just a few months ago, with ads that said exactly that.

    The failure of America is due to a failure of education. Democracy was an interesting experiment, but it does not work with country full of barely-functional illiterates. The founders knew this, and feared it, and did their best to prevent it, but it just couldn’t stand up to 24-hour television and hate radio.

  33. 33
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @The Sheriff’s A Ni-: Reputedly clever birds the raven.

    Another idol shattered.

  34. 34
    Jc says:

    So what to do?

    I doesn’t see a storm on tv, talking about the utter hypocrisy of rethugs.

    I don’t see every commentator saying that “it’s clear with the budget deal that no republican cares about deficits, and when they do they lie”.

    Broken, broken, broken, is our media commenting on political matters.

  35. 35
    JGabriel says:

    Dennis G:

    The 1875 painting, Ivan IV of Russia Shows His Treasury to Jerome Horsey, is by Alexander Litovchenko and hangs in Russian Museum of St. Petersburg (which is an excellent museum to visit if you’re ever in old Leningrad).

    Perhaps in honor of the the revolution that ended czarist rule, I’ll watch Russian Ark tonight — a tour by Sokurov of the Russian Museum in one take, the longest single take in the history cinema at about 95-99 minutes long (depending on the frame rate you are using).

    Footnote: it’s also the first full-length feature film to be completely shot on uncompressed high-def digital.


  36. 36
    General Stuck says:

    The way I look at it, doesn’t much matter whether it’s Ryan, or someone else that lights the fuse to the big bomb the wingnuts are building under the budget and government, to force repeal, or defunding the HCR bill. But rest assured, the wingnuts will be willing to push us all to the edge of the cliff, for that purpose, where anything can happen. It is pure ideological existential evil for them, universal health care provided by liberal governance. It is hard to understate this.

  37. 37
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @General Stuck: It does matter that it’s Ryan. He’s a true believer who really does believe in slashing spending, rather than just pretending to. By handing him the keys, the GOP has reduced its ability to blink and decide that they’re going to get killed on the politics.

  38. 38
    General Stuck says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    What matters is what comes out of the House as passed legislation, that the republicans control and are responsible for. They have pulled this stunt before in the late 90’s.

    edit – and they are all true believers, the House wingnuts right now, who think they were elected saviors of the realm from the liberal devils Obama and Pelosi.

  39. 39
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @General Stuck: Yes, it’s important what comes out of the House, but this gives the rest of the caucus a lot less power to change anything of Ryan’s they don’t like.

    I also wonder what implications this will have on House/Senate conferences. They way I have seen this described, it sounds like it would be out of order for the House to pass anything that goes above the number that Ryan sets. Once he does that, there is no way to change it without changing his mind.

    Edit: I have a hard time believing that this is the way it actually works, just that the descriptions I’ve read seem to imply it.

  40. 40
    General Stuck says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    This has always been the state of things. The House is a near pure majoritarian body, that can make rule changes and pass bills on a whim, and if they don’t want to compromise with the dem senate in a good faith manner, then they won’t. The lines in the sand they are drawing are draconian and they can pass any bill, or not, that will reflect that draconian mindset. They want HCR dead, period. The rest of it is standard right wing posturing over largely faux frugality points of ideology. They are dead serious about stopping the implementation of the Obama/dem HC reform though, and are going to be willing to take it to the edge, and beyond, to accomplish this end.

    Here is the plan, from today’s WSJ

    The lesson for Republicans is to understand the nature of their political opponents and this long-term bet. The GOP can achieve all kinds of victories in the next two years, and some of them will be important for economic growth. But the main chance is ObamaCare, which will fundamentally change the balance of power between government and individuals if it is not repealed or replaced.

    While repeal will no doubt founder in the Senate in the next two years, Republicans can still use their House platform to frame the debate for 2012. They can hold hearings to educate the public about rising insurance costs and other nasty ObamaCare consequences. And they can use the power of the purse to undermine its implementation.

  41. 41
    Citizen Alan says:


    Actually, I wasn’t blaming Obama so much as Tim Kaine and the DCCC (unless Obama, for some impenetrable reason, directed those entities to let Ryan run unopposed, which I do not think was the case). It is simply inconceivable to me Paul Ryan, who was listed as an up-and-coming force in the House years ago, was not be a prime target deserving of everything the Dems could throw at him in his majority-Democratic district. If nothing else, put up a token candidate and see what happens. The freaking ads wrote themselves. Just have somebody read some of the more appalling passages from Atlas Shrugged with a black-and-white picture of Ryan and a caption that reads “This is what Paul Ryan believes.” The fact that such an influential member of the GOP was allowed to run with no opposition at all told me from the start that the Democrats were not serious about standing up to the Republicans.

    I do blame Obama for appointing the Catfood Commission — as far as I’m concerned, he should have dismissed the very notion of deficit reduction when we have 10% unemployment — but that ship has sailed (and hopefully has sunk for good).

  42. 42
    Uloborus says:

    @General Stuck:
    Play it cool, Stuck. They pulled out every damn stop they had to try and stop HCR from passing. Obama, Reid, and Nancy together formed Captain Legislation and kicked their asses. They control the House of Reps pretty hard, so the budget battles WILL be completely god damn insane, but they’re lunatics trying to outwit at least two (Make me believe, Harry!) of the canniest people in DC. And a budget has to pass the House, the Senate, AND Obama.

    I even hold out one tiny gleam of extra hope. Ryan might just be sufficiently insane to attack Medicare. It’s one of the cornerstones of the entitlement system they hate. They’ve just been trying not to mention that lately.

  43. 43
    Suck It Up! says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    I do blame Obama for appointing the Catfood Commission—as far as I’m concerned, he should have dismissed the very notion of deficit reduction when we have 10% unemployment

    yeah, cuz before the deficit commission, no one in washington was talking about cutting the deficit.

  44. 44
    General Stuck says:


    I am confident that while dems and Obama will offer some concessions to pass budgets, but will not give the wingers what they are after, HCR, and/or The New Deal at large. It is going to be an epic confrontation of left/right ideology playing out in front of us. Without much of the protocols of any past statemanship. Death match in the Thunderdome. And the wingers are not holding the high cards they think they hold. They are reading way too much into a mid term election win, and I would bet good money to donuts they do go after sacred cows like medicare, and do general over reach. But they will also cause damage and pain for the short run, for the country, defunding the implementation of HCR, in lieu of repealing it, which they cannot do. And end up pissing the voters off with the collateral damage of other government services that are popular.

  45. 45
    Citizen Alan says:

    @Suck It Up!:

    yeah, cuz before the deficit commission, no one in washington was talking about cutting the deficit.

    Of course, Republicans and their courtesans in the media were talking about the deficit. Deficits are always the worst problem in the world … when the president is a Democrat. OTOH, there is, as we all know, no limit to the amount by which the deficit can be run up when a Republican is in charge, but it’s just a scandal when a Democrat presumes to spend money on a Democratic policy.

    Just because people were talking about cutting the deficit does not mean that Obama should be one of them. He chose to adopt Republican framing and talking points wrt the deficit and it has bit him on the ass ever since and will continue to do so for the next two years at least.

  46. 46
    Dennis G. says:

    Russian Ark is just an amazing film. I saw it before traveling to St. Petersburg and again on my return. That ongoing shot is just stunning.


  47. 47
    c u n d gulag says:

    I think you can safely refer to them as either the RepubliConfederate Party, or the RepubliKlan Party.

    And giving a single Congressman that much power is dangerously stupid, especially a dope like Ryan. On the plus side, it ain’t Pence. Pence makes Ryan look like a figure of towering genious in comparison.

    Seriously, their over-reaching is our best hope for the future. But only if the MSM wakes up and realizes that these people are not to be treated as a political party anymore, but as a cabal of nihilists. Or, ‘a confederacy of nihilists.’

  48. 48
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    @John O: Thanks for that — it’s good to know one is not alone. We took my dad over to HD at Thanksgiving to replace his 20 year old set — ai yi yi yi yi!

  49. 49
    NorthernMNer says:

    I really think this is the beginning of a lot of deficit-theater for the Tea Party’s benefit. I would bet that Boehner/Cantor are hoping this will satisfy and/or distract them when they have to vote to raise the debt limit, and eventually cave to Obama’s veto of their “de-funding” effort.

    Watching the House GOP leadership freak the fuck out as they have to choose between self-immolating by shutting down the Government (Anybody remember the “Furlough Congress!” chants from ’95?) or have their primary base replace them with money-laudering witches will have me making popcorn, with extra butter.

    And you guys are all invited over! I’ve got C-SPAN people!

  50. 50
    Judas Escargot says:

    @Mark S.:

    On the Rand thing: I’ve been trying to get some info on Ryan’s biography, and as far as I can tell he’s a career politician (with some time as a ‘market consultant’ earlier on). Degree in economics/political science.

    Why do so many of these damned Randroids seem to be from the non-productive sectors? ‘Consultants’, politicians, financial types– Second-handers, as Rand would have called them.

    The Randian rhetoric would sound less pathetic if it were ever sputtered by people who, you know, actually created something. Did they even read the damned books?

  51. 51
    rikyrah says:

    they are who we thought they were.

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