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Post Partisan
Posted at 05:30 PM ET, 09/27/2012

What exactly do Ryan's charts mean?

The idea that Paul Ryan’s PowerPoints make him seem like a “wonk” is laughable, but even sillier is what he’s selling in his slides, which Molly Ball reprints .

Never mind, for now, that his points on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are just junk. (Even if there wasn’t the matter of Ryan having supported the “cuts” to Medicare for which he’s now bashing Barack Obama, his claim that Mitt Romney’s plan would mean “no changes” and “no disruptions” for seniors overlooks the key fact that the ACA has provided free preventative care and is closing the doughnut hole; repealing the ACA would presumably “change” and “disrupt” those benefits.)

Never mind, too, that neither Ryan’s budget nor Romney’s would actually close the deficit; to the contrary, with their very specific commitments to tax cuts and vague hand-waving about spending cuts, the most likely effect is the usual Republican one of blowing up the deficit.

Rather, here’s my question: When Ryan presents a look at government debt over time, why should anyone believe his heading about “Our Unsustainable Debt”? After all, the slide shows our massive debt coming out of World War II, and the United States did just fine then.

Sure, Ryan could argue that today’s deficits are not in the service of a noble cause, as those were; but just in terms of the effects, it’s hard to argue that the United States paid a horrible price for that debt. It’s also hard to argue that the debt piled up under Ronald Reagan was a disaster. As Republicans will certainly tell you, that debt was associated with quite a bit of economic growth.

There are reasonable arguments against running high yearly federal government budget deficits, but it’s pretty hard to see those arguments in Ryan’s chart. What I see in that chart is that borrowing is often a very smart strategy for governments, just as it is for individuals and businesses.  

But saying things like that doesn’t get you a reputation as a wonk with the budget-deficit warriors. Especially if you don’t use PowerPoint to say them.

By  |  05:30 PM ET, 09/27/2012

 
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