Paul Ryan says he has a plan to balance the budget. He’s been saying this for months, and his proposals have been scrutinized by experts. So I see two possibilities. One is that Paul Ryan’s plan would balance the budget. The other is that Paul Ryan is dishonest. And yet while it’s uncontroversial among wonky center and center-left types in Washington DC that Ryan’s would not balance the budget, it remains bizarrely controversial whether he deserves a reputation for honesty.
Paul Krugman, standing up for common sense and citing a Tax Policy Center analysis of Ryan’s proposals says he is not honest. The Tax Policy Center, however, is standing up for Ryan before conceding the substance of his point:
TPC did analyze Ryan’s tax-specific proposals and found they would fall short of this revenue goal. For example, Ryan’s proposal would lead to federal tax revenue of approximately 16 percent of GDP, which amounts to a $4 trillion revenue shortfall over ten years compared to the alternative fiscal scenario. But that doesn’t mean that Ryan’s plan is a fraud. Instead, it shows that Ryan’s vision of broad-based tax reform, which essentially would shift us toward a consumption tax, needs to be adjusted in order to meet his stated goal of matching historical levels of revenue as a proportion of GDP. This indeed poses a challenge to Congressman Ryan to make specific changes to his tax reform plan in order to meet his revenue goal.
For Ryan’s plan to work, he needs 19 percent of GDP, which is what he claims to have. The Tax Policy Center pointed out months ago that he has 16, not 19. And Ryan hasn’t offered any new ideas. Instead, he’s still walking around DC dining out on his reputation for honesty and bold thinking. But to offer an honest plan to balance the budget your plan needs to balance the budget. I don’t really understand why this has become the subject of dispute. It seems to me that the 90 percent of members of congress who don’t claim to have a 70-year budget plan are the honest ones. For one thing, they’re not lying! For another thing, why do we even care about Paul Ryan’s plan to balance the budget in 2080? Ryan will almost certainly be dead in 2080. But of course maybe by 2080 we’ll all be disembodied immortals, with our consciousnesses downloaded into computers. It’s bizarre to make (pretending to) tackle this pseudo-issue the prime criterion for serious policy thinking.