Paul Krugman likes to joke about the phenomenon of the Very Serious Person. The VSP is one of those Washington insiders that the political establishment respects and listens to, despite the fact that the person is (a) nearly always wrong; (b) habitually dishonest; or (c) both.
House Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is the quintessential Very Serious Person. But as the dust settles on the first day of his new budget plan, we’re reminded once again of how fundamentally unserious the right-wing congressman really is.
Ryan’s plan wants to simplify the tax code, but doesn’t do any of the work necessary – eliminating unwarranted loopholes, for example – to actually achieve the purported goal. It wants to use budget assumptions for future estimates, but chose assumptions that no sane person could expect to have happen.
It intends to force down discretionary spending to 3.75% of GDP by 2050, but as Jonathan Bernstein explained, that’s ridiculous.
Why does that matter? Because that category includes military spending, which as CBO reminds us has never dropped below 3 percent of GDP since World War II. Since Ryan doesn’t want to cut the military, that would leave less than one percent of GDP – to fund the entire rest of the government.
In other words, Ryan’s long term proposal would basically shut down the federal government except for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and the military. Republicans don’t really want to shut down the FDA, the FBI, and the national parks, not to mention patrolling the border and farm programs and roads. And yet that’s the implication of this document. It’s not even remotely realistic – and neither is Ryan’s claim that his budget would cut the deficit way down.
The bottom line is that this is less of a budget or a blueprint than it is a partisan document designed to score partisan talking points in an election year.
Kevin Drum, who called the Ryan plan “nuts,” fleshed this out a little more, noting CBO numbers that show the Republican budget would whack everything – prisons, border control, education, the FBI, courts, embassies, the IRS, FEMA, housing, student loans, roads, unemployment insurance … everything – by about 80% over the next generation.
And what about Ryan’s alleged interest in debt reduction, which leads him to slash spending on Americans’ health care? According to Citizens for Tax Justice Director Robert McIntyre, even if we’re generous in giving Ryan the benefit of the doubt, his budget plan would cut spending by $4.2 trillion over the next decade, but instead of using it to lower the deficit – and prevent the so-called “crisis” – the Wisconsin Republican would use it to pay for $4.3 trillion in tax cuts.
I realize there’s nothing I can say to convince the political establishment to stop treating Paul Ryan like a Very Serious Person and start treating him like an Ayn Rand-loving con man, but his budget plan is a bad joke.