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Even the Ryan budget can’t please conservatives

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The Ryan budget should be a conservative dream: Slash all domestic spending except for the Pentagon, and cut the taxes of the 1%. Medicare and Medicaid as we know them will be gone, and our pensions will be used to give Mitt Romney another tax break. But Conservatives don't seem to be buying it, 'not enough' they cry. Ed Kilgore (and half the blogosphere) gives their side of the story.

A charitable interpretation of the conservative's dilemma is that they are genuinely concerned by the prospect of budget deficits till 2040 and want to forgo the planned tax cuts. But a more likely explanation is that anything Ryan puts on the table is a no-win proposition for them and there is nothing he can do to satisfy them.

Quite possibly the holdouts' real objection is the exact opposite, that they see the Ryan plan as electoral poison. Voting against the bill while denouncing it as 'too soft' allows the ultras the best of both worlds: They get to preen themselves as being the most conservative of the conservative, while denying their electoral opponents the chance of running effective attack ads tying them to the Ryan plan.

One of the pitfalls of a political philosophy that champions the self-interest above all else is that its exponents are likely to follow it in all things, and put their personal political interest above that of the party.

The win-win proposition will continue after November. If the GOP does well, the ultras will claim that the Tea Party deserves credit for the success. If the GOP does badly, they will be well positioned to pivot Romney-style, and present their vote against the Ryan budget as a vote against the now-discredited Tea Partyism.

What the ultras understand, but Ryan, Romney and the rest do not, is that their backers are not spending their millions to put them in office. The real goal is to crank the dial of public discourse as far as possible to the right and keep it there.

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