Megan McArdle Defends Paul Ryan’s Flimflamming

Is Paul Ryan a Flimflam Man? Megan McArdle say it ain’t so,

While I remain skeptical that anything like the Roadmap is politically possible, Paul Ryan is doing exactly what any sensible congressional sponsor with limited access to CBO time does; he’s saying “Well, when this is getting close to being an actual bill, we’ll work with the CBO and the JCT to tweak the tax rates in order to provide the amount of revenue we need.” This is entirely normal.

Ryan’s plan will not work. Not the one he had scored. The push back amounts to we meant well even though not all the details are there and we can haggle over the rest. The rest being how to generate revenue. Asking the CBO to assume numbers that they do not account for increased costs. How To Spot A Flimflammer

Think about that CBO report: getting the CBO to score only the spending cuts, not the tax proposals, then taking credit for being a big deficit reducer, is simply sleazy. Not acknowledging that the zero nominal growth assumption, not the entitlement changes, is driving that 2020 score is also sleazy. And the whole pose of stern deficit hawk, when you know that there are real questions about whether your plan actually increases the deficit, is phoniness of a high order.

And about that Tax Policy Center report: it has been five months since that came out. Has Ryan tried, at all, to address the concerns the center raised? As far as I can tell, he’s offered nothing but vague assurances of good intentions. Why should we believe him? Because he comes across as a nice guy? So did Bush.

Flimflamming is as flimflamming does. And Paul Ryan shows all the signs.

Con artists are frequently charming and believable. As a matter of fact those qualities are basics to the flimflam tool kit. Without them you’ll only be able to con the truly gullible. This is what Megan and Paul Ryan’s beloved Tax Policy Center said in reply to Krugman’s original column, In Defense of Congressman Paul Ryan ( the same defense repeated on many right-wing sites)

On the spending side, Congressman Ryan’s plan achieves these substantial reductions in our long-term debt through such things as progressive reductions in Social Security benefits, increases in the eligibility age for Medicare, and the replacement of Medicare benefits with a voucher starting in 2021 (with an average initial voucher value for 65-year-olds of $5,900 in 2010 dollars).

On the revenue side, Ryan has proposed creating an alternative income tax system that has two marginal tax rates, eliminates most deductions and credits, and exempts all interest, dividends, and capital gains from the individual income tax.  Filers would get to choose between the existing income tax and the new system.  Ryan would also replace the corporate income tax with a business consumption tax (essentially a value-added tax).

All said as boring matter of fact. Nothing on the particulars like the consequences of, say Ryan’s cuts to Medicare – will need to either cut back on how comprehensive their insurance is ( the new insurance Ryan will push them into with his vouchers) or how much health-care they purchase. Ryan’s tax cuts would be the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy once again floated on the backs of cuts to services for the middle-class. This right-wing fetish for rewarding wealth has no rhyme or reason. The wealthy stay wealthy regardless of which party is in power. The justification for cuddling the wealthy is trickle down theory: The wealthy will not invest in business if their tax rates go up 3 percent. We tried that and we’re now in the Great Recession. The Bush era conservative management of the economy costs the nation 3 trillion dollars. Once again we have a conservative to libertarian columnist either hoping you don’t read the TPC report or she did not read the whole thing,

TPC did analyze Ryan’s tax-specific proposals and found they would fall short of this revenue goal.  For example, Ryan’s proposal would lead to federal tax revenue of approximately 16 percent of GDP, which amounts to a $4 trillion revenue shortfall over ten years compared to the alternative fiscal scenario.  But that doesn’t mean that Ryan’s plan is a fraud. Instead, it shows that Ryan’s vision of broad-based tax reform, which essentially would shift us toward a consumption tax, needs to be adjusted in order to meet his stated goal of matching historical levels of revenue as a proportion of GDP. This indeed poses a challenge to Congressman Ryan to make specific changes to his tax reform plan in order to meet his revenue goal.

If Ryan’s lack of revenue details is not a flimflam than it’s cowardly. It looks like a bit of both.

One wild card last ditch attempt to defend Ryan came from a commenter at one site who said we should ignore the details because forecasts are like so hard dude. We should all agree on some general principles. Would that be something like spending and revenue have to line up? Where were people like that from 2000 to 2008. Ryan was in Congress and Dick Cheney was saying deficits don’t matter.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has, however, stepped into the breach. Its numbers indicate that the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.

And that’s about the same as the budget office’s estimate of the 2020 deficit under the Obama administration’s plans. That is, Mr. Ryan may speak about the deficit in apocalyptic terms, but even if you believe that his proposed spending cuts are feasible — which you shouldn’t — the Roadmap wouldn’t reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich.

Ryan is just George Bush in a tighter suit. Worship the ground the wealthy walk on, give the middle and working class another shaft.

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