Mainstream Media Falls in Love With Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan

The liberal mainstream media has fallen in love again. This time it’s with Wisconsin’s Republican Representative Paul Ryan and his “Roadmap for America’s Future” version 2.0.

Everything’s version 2.0 these days, but in Ryan’s case, his roadmap to “solve America’s long-term economic and fiscal crisis” is really more of a 1.1 version.

You see Newt Gingrich proposed this same plan back in the mid-1990s. You remember that whole “Contract with America” horse-hockey? Well, Ryan’s dusted off Gingrich’s old playbook and the media is lapping it up.

Ryan wants to slather the top 1 percent with huge tax cuts and slash gaping holes into the social safety net. Under his plan, the richest of the rich would see their taxes cut in half. And then he wants to, you guessed it, privatize Social Security and Medicare.

That liberal rag, The Washington Post, ran a shining profile of Ryan on Monday portraying his as the fiscal conscience of the GOP.

According to the profile, Ryan had wanted to be an economist, but decided he would have more impact in Congress, so he ran and won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1998.

Paul Krugman is an economist, and he called Ryan him a “flimflam man.” Despite Ryan’s intellectual dishonesty, Krugman said the mainstream media often describe Ryan with phrases like “intellectually audacious.”

Krugman writes:

But it’s the audacity of dopes. Mr. Ryan isn’t offering fresh food for thought; he’s serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce.

Mr. Ryan’s plan calls for steep cuts in both spending and taxes. He’d have you believe that the combined effect would be much lower budget deficits, and, according to that Washington Post report, he speaks about deficits “in apocalyptic terms.” And The Post also tells us that his plan would, indeed, sharply reduce the flow of red ink: “The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan would cut the budget deficit in half by 2020.”

But the budget office has done no such thing. At Mr. Ryan’s request, it produced an estimate of the budget effects of his proposed spending cuts — period. It didn’t address the revenue losses from his tax cuts.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Ryan’s plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next 10 years.

“If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion,” Krugman said. That’s approximately the same as the budget office’s estimate of the 2020 deficit under Obama’s plan.

What Ryan is doing is he’s loading up his proposal with huge spending cuts, and having those cuts analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, but ignoring the impact of his massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

Megan McArdle

Megan McArdle

Conservative blogger Megan McArdle jumped into bail out Ryan’s intellectual dishonesty by making the claim that it’s the Joint Committee on Taxation, and not the CBO, that scores tax cuts, but the JCT has been too darn busy to work on his proposal – convenient.

McArdle wrote:

My recollection is also that Paul Ryan couldn’t get the JCT committee staff time anyway because they were a wee bit busy doing all the forecasts for health care reform, and the Roadmap is not going to pass barring some miracle. But I was a wee bit busy with health care reform as well, so I could be wrong about that.

At any rate, the answer to Paul Krugman’s question “Why didn’t he ask” is that “He did, and they said no.”

While I remain skeptical that anything like the Roadmap is politically possible, Paul Ryan is doing exactly what any sensible congressional sponsor with limited access to CBO time does; he’s saying “Well, when this is getting close to being an actual bill, we’ll work with the CBO and the JCT to tweak the tax rates in order to provide the amount of revenue we need.” This is entirely normal.

Ah yes, the “we’re all too busy to do the math” excuse.

Kevin Drum

Kevin Drum

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum chimed in yesterday.

Responding to McArdle’s “argument” Drum said:

Well … OK. Up to a point. But look: Ryan surely has some responsibility to make the tax side of his plan as realistic as possible, especially given his chosen role as toughminded truthteller. And the Tax Policy Center made it pretty clear months ago that he wasn’t even close to his revenue goal. It’s easy to wave this off as requiring mere “tweaks” to the tax rates, but those tweaks are exactly the place where anyone would quite reasonably be most suspicious of Ryan’s willingness to play fair. After all, two or three points of GDP is a lot of money, and a tax skeptic like Ryan is going to have a very hard time making the changes necessary to come up with that kind of dough.

Ryan’s Roadmap is 70 pages long and obviously the result of a lot of work. So why not put in a little more work and bring the tax side of the plan into the realm of reason? Is it really that cynical to think it’s because he’s trying to get credit for being a deficit fighter without having to give up the dramatic tax cuts for the rich he so obviously has his heart set on?

But now that the mainstream media is singing to Ryan’s tune, who knows what will happen with his plan to gut the social safety and lay fat tax cuts on the wealthy. If the Democrats lose control of the House in November, anything is possible.

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