Ryan’s long con continues

Congressman Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan is out with another budget that’ll never become law, which means it’s another document made of smoke and mirrors that he’s using to get his face on television, to raise his profile, to further his political career.

Here’s Krugman in the Times about Ryan’s con game back in 2010:

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.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has, however, stepped into the breach. Its numbers indicate that the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.

And that’s about the same as the budget office’s estimate of the 2020 deficit under the Obama administration’s plans.

This part is worth repeating, because it should have resulted in Ryan being mocked and laughed at by the press until he resigned from Congress two years ago:

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.

Ryan told the press that his budget would cut spending and taxes and balance the budget, but he only sent the spending cuts to the CBO to be scored. That’s what criminals do, it’s not what honest politicians interested in good governance do.

When Democrats were writing health care reform, they repeatedly sent the entire thing to the CBO. They didn’t hide tax increases by only sending the CBO half the legislation so that they could dodge tax-related attacks from the right. The upside to that is thanks to being able to include the tax polices, the CBO could project that health care reform was fully paid for. You know, a little thing called fiscal responsibility.

The right’s leading con artist and fiscal liar is back at it this afternoon:

But Ryan’s budget leaves a number of major questions unanswered – questions that could decide whether his budget, if it ever passed, would come anywhere near fulfilling its goals. Here are the five biggest blank spots:

Tax reform. Ryan says a lot about how he’d cut spending. But he says nothing about how he’d reform the tax code. His excuse is that reforming the tax code is the job of the Ways and Means Committee, so he’s leaving it up to them. But that’s a thin dodge. The same could be said for Medicare and Medicaid, which are also under the jurisdiction of Ways and Means, but Ryan has released detailed plans on both. Making matters more difficult is that Ryan’s tax-reform targets – which have been downgraded in this budget to mere “goals” – are deeply implausible, requiring, in the estimation of experts I’ve spoken to, at least $5 trillion in offsets.

If Ryan’s targets are anything like they have been in the past, and are anything like the policy of the Romney-Ryan campaign, they are little more than “we’ll close a bunch of loopholes to be specified later, and then we’ll cut taxes for the 1%.”

But it’s worse than that. Since this is a Republican budget, a lot of the spending cuts attack the middle class by doing what Republicans have been trying to do since the ’40s: deconstruct and if possible, completely end the social safety net.

The SNAP (foodstamp) program is only spending about $71 billion per year, yet would receive large cuts in Ryan’s budget. If that number sounds it, that’s because it’s nearly double what it was before the recession. SNAP did exactly what it was designed to do: catch Americans who were falling through the cracks to keep them from starving.

Cutting foodstamp spending now when it’s needed the most is the kind of cruelty that has lead the Catholic church to repeatedly denounce GOP budgets over the last few years, specifically calling out Paul Ryan and his budgets for failing a “basic moral test”.

As pointed out by Ezra Klein, Ryan’s budget has no ideas for Social Security, although that’s understandable in a way since Social Security won’t be in trouble until the late 2030s. It looks like he still plans to end Medicare, too.

The budget (I agree with Klein, why is this in a budget?) also promises to repeal Dodd-Frank, the extremely weak Wall Street reform package that Democrats managed to pass in the wake of the economic collapse that Wall Street’s out-of-control gambling caused. Like tax reform and Social Security reform, the budget doesn’t say what it would do to replace that reform package, which means it’s either straight deregulation (the absolute worst possible thing anyone could do right now) or just more smoke and mirrors.

This all illustrates how the GOP has turned the budget making process into an election stunt, a means to annually firm up their base with false promises of fiscal responsibility that they have no intention of keeping.

Think about how carefully constructed the con game is and how quickly it falls apart if you change it. The Ryan budget specifies $4 trillion in spending cuts with most of it had by squeezing the middle class. That’s why he’s willing to put those cuts on paper, because it’ll make the base happy and get him and his party votes in 2014. If instead those cuts came from defense and other areas, the base would never accept it and it would never make it out of Ryan’s own committee because it would cost them votes instead.

The budget promises tax reform but doesn’t say what exactly that reform will be. That sounds like tax cuts for the rich and increases for the middle class, which the base loves, but it’s a punt to another committee that Ryan doesn’t serve on. If the legislation included actual reform, it would either have to have $4 trillion in tax increases (thereby reducing the deficit by nothing at all) to balance the tax cuts for the rich and corporations, or show just the tax cuts which would then let everyone with a calculator see that the budget would actually increase the deficit, just as all projections of the Romney-Ryan plans would have.

This is the only way that this game can be played. Krugman figured that out two years ago and anyone who stops for a minute to consider what is and isn’t in this budget can see it too.

Now, this isn’t an argument against spending cuts. There’s plenty in the $700 billion defense budget that can be cut (it was $350 billion near the end of the Clinton administration) at a careful rate done at the right time. I’m sure there are other areas.

The issue here isn’t that GOP budgets are ipso facto bad, it’s that Paul Ryan’s budgets are a long con game designed to pander to voters. They could never become law because they are always incomplete, and for that fact alone, the press should have ripped this guy a new asshole before anybody outside Washington even knew his name.

Update, 7:13p
An observation from CQ’s budget man: “Ryan’s budget would have >$300B deficit in 2023 without fiscal cliff tax hike, Obamacare tax hike & Obamacare Medicare cuts.Here’s more on how Ryan’s already fake plan literally can’t work without Obamacare.

Steven points out that a lot of savings are based on Obama’s budget, and keeps cuts to Medicare waste/fraud/abuse that were Obama’s idea and are in Obamacare that Ryan had the balls to campaign against last year. Cuts that were in Ryan’s other budgets before 2012 as well. I forgot about that, which again demonstrates what a huge liar and con artist Paul Ryan is.

Because of Ryan’s cuts to Obamacare spending (while keeping all the tax increases that Republicans have been railing against for years), it would also mean 30 million people who’d newly be able to afford insurance at the end of this decade won’t have that ability, and America would continue to have a huge number of uninsured.

Update, 7:56p
The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a report out on Ryan’s budget. Here are a few key points:

* Cuts taxes for the rich and corporations, 39.6% to 25%. Physically impossible to do this without raising taxes on the poor and middle class.

* Health care reform repeal would kick 14-21 million Americans off Medicaid by 2022. Compared to leaving reform intact, would result in 40 to 50 fewer million Americans with health insurance, mostly poor and moderate-income.

* Cuts $800 billion from Pell Grants, food stamps, SSI for the elderly and disabled, school lunch and child nutrition programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit and portions of the Child Tax Credit, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

* Restores all defense cuts made under sequestration starting in 2014, thereby increasing defense spending by $500 billion over ten years.

My opinion of those facts is that the Ryan/GOP budget is exactly what it has been since George W. Bush came to power in 2001: big giveaways to the rich and savage cuts for programs that serve the poor and middle class while protecting and enlarging the defense welfare industry.

Just as was the case with prior Ryan budgets, this one is an immoral monster that represents the very worst of government. It lavishes hundreds of billions and nearly a trillion on defense contractors for things we don’t need, while hurting college students, children, the elderly, disabled, and the poor all at the same time.

Paul Tenny

Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.
Paul Tenny

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