Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assured everyone that as the Republican tax plan was coming together, he had dozens of officials working on creating a detailed analysis of the proposal. None of this was true: the New York Times reported that officials inside the Treasury's Office of Tax Policy claim to have been "largely shut out of the process" and haven't "worked on the type of detailed analysis" that Mnuchin described.
This week, the Treasury Department released a one-page document, billed as an "analysis," which was plainly embarrassing. It not only failed to offer any meaningful scrutiny of the GOP plan -- the Washington Post's Catherine Rampell said it read like "fan fiction" -- the document showed that the Republican proposal wouldn't actually pay for itself unless a series of other, unrelated, non-existent bills also passed Congress.
New York's Jon Chait joked, "It's like claiming for months you can beat up the toughest kid in school, then finally backing up the boast by describing a hypothetical fight where you beat him up with the aid of your black-belt cousin, when in fact your cousin's grasp of martial arts has not advanced beyond an intention to enroll in a karate class at the YMCA."
It's against this backdrop that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said how impressed he was with the Treasury Department's findings.
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday defended a one-page analysis by the Treasury Department that asserted a tax plan pushed by the Republican-led Congress would pay for itself in 10 years."I think that estimate makes a lot of sense. ... I do believe the Treasury when they say that this is going to unleash a lot of economic growth, which will accrue more revenues," Ryan told reporters.
In theory, it stands to reason that a Republican House Speaker would turn to a Republican-led Treasury Department for policy backup on a Republican tax plan. That's kind of how this works on a conceptual level: when GOP lawmakers get discouraging data from the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office, they're likely to turn to a GOP administration's Treasury Department for more favorable figures.
But in this case, Trump's Treasury failed spectacularly to tell Republicans what they wanted to hear. Indeed, Mnuchin & Co, barely did any meaningful work at all, producing a brief, thrown-together document that one might expect from a high-school student.
Faced with this reality, Paul Ryan decided to pretend Treasury's "analysis" was not only worthwhile, but a welcome contribution to the debate that bolstered his party's regressive plans.
That's a problem, not only on its face, but because of what it tells us about the GOP's interest in policymaking.
As Vox's Ezra Klein explained this week, "This ... is the truth of the establishment Republican Party: It is Donald Trump without the caps lock, Alex Jones in a suit. Compared to the president, McConnell and Ryan are less alarming in their demeanor, less unhinged in their tone, but, when convenient, they are similarly willing to unmoor themselves from reality."