Paul Krugman perfectly explains Paul Ryan and his budget. If you read one column today, it should be this one because then you can explain Paul Ryan at cocktail parties brilliantly from now to November 6. From “An Unserious Man,” NYT:
“On the tax side, Mr. Ryan proposes big cuts in tax rates on top income brackets and corporations. He has tried to dodge the normal process in which tax proposals are ‘scored’ by independent auditors, but the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math, and the revenue loss from these cuts comes to $4.3 trillion over the next decade.
“On the spending side, Mr. Ryan proposes huge cuts in Medicaid, turning it over to the states while sharply reducing funding relative to projections under current policy. That saves around $800 billion. He proposes similar harsh cuts in food stamps, saving a further $130 billion or so, plus a grab-bag of other cuts, such as reduced aid to college students. Let’s be generous and say that all these cuts would save $1 trillion.
“On top of this, Mr. Ryan includes the $716 billion in Medicare savings that are part of Obamacare….
“So if we add up Mr. Ryan’s specific proposals, we have $4.3 trillion in tax cuts, partially offset by around $1.7 trillion in spending cuts — with the tax cuts, surprise, disproportionately benefiting the top 1 percent, while the spending cuts would primarily come at the expense of low-income families. Over all, the effect would be to increase the deficit by around two and a half trillion dollars.
“Yet Mr. Ryan claims to be a deficit hawk. What’s the basis for that claim?
“Well, he says that he would offset his tax cuts by ‘base broadening,’ eliminating enough tax deductions to make up the lost revenue. Which deductions would he eliminate? He refuses to say — and realistically, revenue gain on the scale he claims would be virtually impossible.
“At the same time, he asserts that he would make huge further cuts in spending. What would he cut? He refuses to say.
“What Mr. Ryan actually offers, then, are specific proposals that would sharply increase the deficit, plus an assertion that he has secret tax and spending plans that he refuses to share with us, but which will turn his overall plan into deficit reduction.
“If this sounds like a joke, that’s because it is. Yet Mr. Ryan’s ‘plan’ has been treated with great respect in Washington. …What’s going on?
‘The answer, basically, is a triumph of style over substance. Over the longer term, the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it — and in Washington, ‘fiscal responsibility’ is often equated with willingness to slash Medicare and Social Security, even if the purported savings would be used to cut taxes on the rich rather than to reduce deficits. Also, self-proclaimed centrists are always looking for conservatives they can praise to showcase their centrism, and Mr. Ryan has skillfully played into that weakness, talking a good game even if his numbers don’t add up.
‘The question now is whether Mr. Ryan’s undeserved reputation for honesty and fiscal responsibility can survive his participation in a deeply dishonest and irresponsible presidential campaign.
“So will the choice of Mr. Ryan mean a serious campaign? No, because Mr. Ryan isn’t a serious man — he just plays one on TV.” Emphasis added.