Last week, after House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) blamed President Obama for automatic sequestration cuts, I reported an overlooked detail: in August 2011, Ryan told Fox News that he and congressional Republicans deserve credit for the sequester, which contradicts the new GOP line.
The good news is, someone at ABC News noticed my post. The better news is, ABC’s Jonathan Karl confronted Paul Ryan with the quote and asked for an explanation. Here’s what the far-right congressman said in response:
“So those are the budget caps on discretionary spending . Those occurred. We want those. Everybody wants budget caps. The sequester we’re talking about now was backing up the super-committee. Remember the super committee in addition to those caps was supposed to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings. The Republicans on the super-committee offered even higher revenues in exchange for spending cuts as part of that . It was rejected by the president and the Democrats .
“So no resolution occurred and therefore the sequester is occurring. And what we’ve always said is let’s cut spending in smarter ways to replace this sequester. We passed two bills doing that and we’ve heard nothing in response from the Senate Democrats or the president .”
This certainly won’t help the “Lyin’ Ryan” moniker go away anytime soon, since there’s almost nothing in the response that was true. Consider:  when Ryan boasted about the sequester in August 2011, he wasn’t talking about budget caps, he was talking about the sequester;  GOP members on the super-committee didn’t offer “higher revenues,” but rather, they offered tax breaks they said might someday lead to higher revenues;  President Obama and congressional Democrats were desperate to strike a super-committee compromise, but Republicans refused; and  the White House and Senate Democrats have proposed a sequester alternative, but the House GOP has not.
In other words, Ryan was confronted with a fact – he took credit for the policy he now wants to blame on the president – and he responded with a series of claims, each of which are demonstrably false. It’s almost as if the House Budget Committee chairman assumes there are no consequences for saying things that aren’t true.
Wait, it gets worse.
Here’s Ryan explaining in the same interview why he wants a sequester deal in which Republicans get 100% of what they want.
“[T]aking tax loophole[s], what we’ve always advocated is necessary for tax reform, means you’re going to close loopholes to fuel more spending not to reform the tax code. […]
“[I]f you take tax loopholes to fuel more spending, which is what they’re proposing, then you are preventing tax reform, which we think is necessary, to end crony capitalism and to grow the economy.”
I’d like to get the DC establishment together and make them write on a blackboard 100 times, “Paul Ryan is not a deficit hawk; he just wants to cut taxes.”
This quote is important because it illustrates a larger truth about the fiscal debate. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that the tax code has loopholes and unnecessary deductions that should be eliminated. Democrats and Republicans also agree that closing these loopholes and scrapping those unnecessary deductions would be worth hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.
But Ryan’s answer to ABC makes clear exactly where the two parties diverge: Democrats believe the hundreds of billions of dollars should be used to reduce the nation’s long-term debt problem, while Republicans believe the hundreds of billions of dollars must be applied to more tax cuts.
I don’t know how much clearer this can get for the political establishment: Paul Ryan realizes that bipartisan tax reform could produce a half-trillion dollars or more in savings, which would do wonders to resolve the “debt crisis” Republicans occasionally pretend to care about, but Ryan insists it’s not actually tax reform unless all of that money is applied to giving the wealthy tax breaks they don’t need.
As Jon Chait explained, “Obama is offering to cut spending on retirement programs and to cancel out cuts to defense – two things large chunks of the GOP would like – in return for more revenue. He’s not even demanding higher rates. He’s merely asking to reduce tax deductions. Ryan insists he won’t take the deal, because if he uses the revenue from reducing tax deductions to close the deficit, it won’t be available to reduce tax rates. Every other fiscal priority must give way for the overriding goal of reducing marginal tax rates.”
If you think Paul Ryan is serious about debt reduction, it’s time to accept the fact that you’ve been suckered.