Since I took it to Paul Ryan and the Republicans in fairly strong language yesterday, and I suspect I'll not wind up saying nice things about Ryan's budget, I'll back up a bit and say one thing in their defense.
Ryan is taking a fair amount of heat from some liberals because the budget matches the Romney/Ryan campaign plan and because the ticket that ran on that platform lost. For example, Jared Bernstein: "OK…but the thing is, we had a national election on this preference set, and it lost."
I suppose there's nothing wrong with this as a talking point, but really: what else do you expect Republicans -- who after all, retained their majority in the House of Representatives -- to do?
The idea that Republicans should just give up on their preferences because Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney -- by a solid, but hardly overwhelming, margin -- doesn't make sense. For that matter, it's also a very weak argument to claim that an electoral win is a popular endorsement of specific policies.
Granted, winning the (presidential) election entitles Democrats to use that talking point, but it's really not much of an argument. And of course Republicans could choose to change policy preferences after electoral loss, but that's not an argument for why their current proposals, same or different from the old ones, shouldn't be taken seriously.
Elections are not referendums on specific policy.
To the extent that Ryan's "budget" turns out to be based on phony numbers, that's irresponsible and he should be called on it. And it's a big problem -- it's also irresponsible behavior -- if Republicans refuse to negotiate from their policy preferences. But stating those preferences in the first place? Even if they are massively unpopular, it's not irresponsible to state them -- and election defeats don't change that at all.