House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) deserves just a little credit for acknowledging the basic idea that congressional Republicans should have a policy agenda. Sure, it's clearing the lowest possible threshold for a major party that's already in the majority, but the Wisconsin congressman decided to launch a months-long effort to prove that the GOP really could be a 21st-century governing party.
In the end, however, Ryan has proven the opposite.
The Republican Speaker assembled a team of House Republican lawmakers and staffers to craft a multi-part "Better Way" plan. "What you will see with these [proposals] are detailed policy papers," Ryan declared a month ago. "We're not talking about principles here. This is substance."
If only that were true. Part One was Ryan's plan to address poverty, which turned out to be laughable. Part Two was a national-security vision, which was not only ignored, it was contradicted by his party's presumptive presidential nominee. Part Three in the Speaker's agenda was a deregulation plan that was just a warmed over version of stale GOP demands. Part Four was a health care reform plan that was accurately summarized this way: "Speaker Paul Ryan wants to replace 20 million people's health insurance with 37 pages of talking points."
All of which leads to today's tax-reform plan, which might actually be the worst plank yet. The Washington Post reported:
The tax plan would slash rates across the board -- by 20 percent for businesses and 33 percent for individuals, simplify the tax filing process and restructure the international tax code. The plan embraces long-standing Republican principles like cutting rates and eliminating deductions while embracing a business consumption tax that is increasingly popular in conservative think-tank circles.
Though the GOP proposal leaves out details -- such as which specific deductions would be eliminated and how much the plan would cost -- it offers a fuller alternative to the deep rate cuts pitched by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. [emphasis added]
I bolded that section for a reason: Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, the former chairman of the House Budget Committee, and a member of his party's 2012 national ticket, spent months on a tax-reform plan with no price tag.