By Eugene Robinson, Published: March 11
If Rep. Paul Ryan wants people to take his budget manifestos seriously, he should be honest about his ambition: not so much to make the federal government fiscally sustainable as to make it smaller.
You will recall that the Ryan Budget was a big Republican selling point in last year’s election. Most famously, Ryan proposed turning Medicare into a voucher program. He offered the usual GOP recipe of tax cuts — to be offset by closing certain loopholes, which he would not specify — along with drastic reductions in non-defense “discretionary” spending.
If the plan Ryan offered had been enacted, the federal budget would not come into balance until 2040. For some reason, Republicans forgot to mention this detail in their stump speeches and campaign ads.
Voters were supposed to believe that Ryan was an apostle of fiscal rectitude. But his real aim wasn’t to balance the budget. It was to starve the federal government of revenue. Big government, in his worldview, is inherently bad — never mind that we live in an awfully big country.
Ryan and Mitt Romney offered their vision, President Obama offered his, and Americans made their choice. Rather emphatically.
Now Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, is coming back with an ostensibly new and improved version of the framework that voters rejected in November. Judging by the preview he offered Sunday, the new plan is even less grounded in reality than was the old one.
Voters might not have focused on the fact that Ryan’s original plan wouldn’t have produced a balanced budget until today’s high school students reached middle age, but the true deficit hawks in the House Republican caucus certainly noticed. They demanded a budget that reached balance much sooner. Hence Ryan’s revised plan, which claims to accomplish this feat of equilibrium within a decade.
It will, in fact, do nothing of the sort, because it appears to depend on at least one ridiculous assumption and two glaring contradictions. That’s for starters; I’m confident we’ll see more absurdities