Paul Ryan’s Strange New Respect


To just agree with Kevin Drum for a bit there’s something bizarre about the recent Beltway fad of praising Paul Ryan. I think that when progressives do this they’re mostly being ironic, holding up Ryan—who’s basically a fraud—and saying this guy is the honest and intelligent one! And it’s true that he beats the Mike Pence standard for idiocy in that he can sort of maintain a back-and-forth with a well-informed policy writer as long as the writer doesn’t press him on anything. But coverage of the Super-Honest Ryan Plan to Balance the Budget While Cutting Taxes Through Draconian Spending Cuts tends to overlook the fact that most people would pay higher taxes, and the plan wouldn’t actually balance the budget if you calculate revenue figures based on a real model rather than Ryan’s ad hoc stipulations:


On top of all that, as Drum says, his “plan” for draconian cuts in spending isn’t really a plan at all he just rattles off arbitrary numerical caps without saying what kinds of reduced levels of services he thinks this would entail. Are we letting people out of federal prisons? Selling national parks? And of course he doesn’t seem to know what the Federal Funds Rate is. So I’m not particularly impressed. I’m pretty sure we could have random congressional interns throw together a balanced budget plan as long as it was allowed to (a) raise taxes on 90 percent of Americans and (b) not balance the budget, but I doubt the authors would become the toast of the town for their rigorous thinking if they did.

Ezra Klein posits that statements like “Rationing happens today! The question is who will do it? The government? Or you, your doctor and your family?” at least raise the honesty level of the debate. I’m not sure they do. Or at least I don’t think this is a very honest description of Ryan’s plan. Voucherizing Medicare puts rationing decisions into the hands of the executives of health insurance companies. Refusing to keep Medicare expenditures in line with the growth of health care costs means the rich will get treatment and the poor won’t. Putting decisions into the hands of patients and doctors rather than the government has no relationship to his proposals.