Today’s big read is Ryan Lizza’s profile of Paul Ryan in the New Yorker. Here’s the key paragraph, in which Ryan rejects claims that he wants to slash government in a radical way:
When I pointed out to Ryan that government spending programs were at the heart of his home town’s recovery, he didn’t disagree. But he insisted that he has been misunderstood. “Obama is trying to paint us as a caricature,” he said. “As if we’re some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians. It’s a false dichotomy and intellectually lazy.” He added, “Of course we believe in government. We think government should do what it does really well, but that it has limits, and obviously within those limits are things like infrastructure, interstate highways, and airports.” But independent assessments make clear that Ryan’s budget plan, in order to achieve its goals, would drastically reduce the parts of the budget that fund exactly the kinds of projects and research now helping Janesville.
“As if we’re some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians”? As Obi-Wan told Anakin: You have done that yourself.
The problem with Ryan is that he wants to have it both ways, and far too many deficit hawks let him. Ryan has sold his budget on the basis of deficit fears. Lizza reports that Ryan and other Republicans successfully sold the Ryan plan as the “only solution” to avert fiscal armageddon.
But Ryan’s budget doesn’t do that — it isn’t any kind of solution to budget deficits at all — unless it does what its own numbers inescapably say it will do and completely eliminates the entire federal government except for the military, Social Security, and health programs. If he really does, contrary to what his budget says, want to keep “infrastructure, interstate highways, and airports” along with veterans’ programs, the FBI, the border patrol, and all the other things that the federal government does now — well, then the deficits remain. And that’s not to mention that Ryan and Mitt Romney also support an entirely unrealistic tax “reform” plan that amounts to huge, specified tax rate cuts that would help the rich and vague, unspecified plans to end many tax credits and deductions, something that’s very unlikely to actually happen since those provisions are extremely popular.
Ryan’s budget leaves all the pain until after the election — pain that’s only necessary in order to achieve the low tax rates, especially on the rich, that Ryan and other Republicans deem essential. Either Ryan’s fiscal vision really would dramatically cut government, or his numbers don’t add up. In short, Ryan is either a radical or a fraud.