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Romney's Creed: Ryan's

First the good news: We don't have to worry this year about the intellectual qualifications of the GOP vice-presidential candidate -- or about the judgment of a presidential candidate who would choose an unqualified running mate. Of course, it was always highly unlikely that Mitt Romney was going to repeat that particular mistake.Now the bad news: By putting Paul Ryan on the ticket, Romney has underlined his prior commitment to Ryan's budget plan, which would gut Medicaid, transform Medicare into a voucher program, and reduce all federal discretionary spending -- including defense spending -- to 3.5 percent of GDP. We now spend more than 4 percent of GDP on the Department of Defense alone, and both Romney and Ryan have pledged to protect the military from further cuts. That would leave the federal government with less than nothing to spend on everything else except for entitlements: roads and bridges, education, food safety, you name it.Ryan and his defenders say we have no choice. We must either behave as adults and scale back basic public programs or risk losing them altogether. They say this because they know most Americans would reject Ryan's plan if it were presented as a choice -- the choice between dismantling the federal government and raising taxes on the rich and upper middle class, whose effective tax rates are now at their lowest level in decades.Ryan has always been in favor of scrapping or privatizing federal programs for reasons that have little to do with fiscal necessity. He was, for example, behind a 2005 plan to privatize Social Security, which went nowhere. He was also in favor of the Bush administration's tax cuts and wars, which did as much as anything else to cause our current fiscal problems. Ryan believes, as a matter of principle, that the federal government has no business taking care of the old, the sick, and the destitute. Each state, not the United States, can deal with the needs of such people. Or, better, churches and voluntary associations can take care of them. (Food stamps? Are there no church-basement homeless shelters, no soup kitchens?). Better still, those in need can learn to take care of themselves, as the good Lord intended, because no one is free who isn't self-sufficient. On that point, at least, the divine Author of our liberties is in complete agreement with Ayn Rand.Ryan has carefully distanced himself from Rand, a hero of his youth. He's never been an objectivist, he now insists. How could he be? He's a Catholic. He just likes her novels for the way they dramatize the evil of "collectivism," Ryan's pejorative term for the commonweal. Still, the question remains: Would someone who knew nothing about Ryan but had studied his budget be more likely to think it had been inspired by the Sermon on the Mount or Atlas Shrugged? As I wrote here a few months ago:

I have no doubt Ryan goes to Mass every week, loves his wife and children, and is truly contrite about his recent enthusiasm for the works of Ayn Rand.The problem isnt Ryans personal piety; its his policy priorities. Make that priority. For all his grim talk about our national-debt emergency, Ryans new budget, like his old budget, is really organized around the single imperative of reducing taxes, especially for the rich. It is very specific about this: it would bring down the top personal income-tax rate from 35 to 25 percent and reduce corporate taxes to the same rate. True, it promises to offset the effect of these lower rates by closing loopholes, but these loopholes are left unspecified (as they almost always are). Ryan has specifically promised not to close one of the most egregious loopholes, the one that allows income on capital to be taxed at 15 percent. To make up for the revenue lost because of the tax cuts, Congress would have to find $700 billion worth of other loopholes to close. But dont worry: Ryan and the rest of the GOP congressional caucus will figure that out later. If the national debt is really the looming catastrophe Ryan says it is a catastrophe in which the poor would be hit the first and the worst, as Ryan put it in his recent speech at Georgetown then you might expect hed at least be willing to consider raising tax rates, which are as low as theyve been in fifty years. You would certainly not expect him to lower them still further. But it is possible that Ryan still believes, against all the available evidence, that cutting taxes will automatically lead to economic growth, which will in turn help bring down the deficit and benefit the poor. In which case he is not a Randian (Rand hated all superstition) but a practitioner of voodoo, bent on reanimating our inert economy by bleeding the federal government.Even if Ryans budget didnt hurt the poor indeed, even if it somehow helped them this would be no more than a happy accident. The point is not, and never has been, to help the poor. The point is to shrink the government and lower taxes. If this helps the poor, so much the better; if it doesnt, sauve qui peut.

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"reduce all federal discretionary spending including defense spending to 3.5 percent of GDP. We now spend more than 4 percent of GDP on the Department of Defense alone, and both Romney and Ryan have pledged to protect the military from further cuts."You do know that the candidate that I assume you are supporting has proposed "cutting" (and by "cut" all they mean is reducing the rate of increased spending on particular programs) discretionary spending (defense and non-defense) to 5% of GDP by 2022? By contrast, Ryan has proposed reducing spending to 4.5% of GDP by 2040. You are right that Ryan would reduce discretionary spending to 3.5%...by 2050. Indeed, the President's own budget reduces all non-defense discretionary spending to 1.7% of GDP by 2022.Yes, the President's cutting falls more on defense spending, but if you think you can reduce spending on the scale the President has proposed without affecting social spending, you're as confused as thinking you can cut as dramatically as Ryan has proposed without cutting defense.

Jeff,For the record, I do not think you can reduce spending on the scale President Obama has proposed without affecting social spending. Nor am I categorically opposed to cuts in discretionary spending; there are no doubt programs that can and should be cut or eliminated. Still, 1.7 percent of GDP won't be enough for non-defense discretionary spending in 2022, and 5 percent is unlikely to be enough in 2022, even if we make much deeper cuts in military spending than either party would accept.But unlike Ryan's plan, the president's wouldn't require the outright elimination of most federal programs within forty years. Nor would the president impose draconian budget cuts while also lowering tax rates for the affluent. I know, I know. The rate cuts Ryan supports are supposed to be offset by "widening the base." But, as I pointed out in my earlier post on the Ryan budget, the promised offset is left as vague as possible. And no non-partisan expert believes that either Ryan's tax plan or Romney's would be revenue neutral.

Barack Obama's policies may be inspired by the Sermon on the Mount but he seems to have forgotten that his promises are empty unless he has figured out how to pay for them.Keith Hennessey points out that the irresponsible fiscal promise isn't Ryan's "proposed spending cut, its the promise to keep spending growth going without specifying how youll pay for it. If President Obama were proposing tax increases to match his future spending growth, then this would be a fair attack. But he is not.. . ."If you dont want to make big 'cuts' and structural changes to government spending, then the Presidents current set of proposed tax increases are, at best, only a short-term fiscal band-aid. You mathematically force yourself into supporting income tax increases on the middle class and big value-added taxes. Tax increases only on the rich wont suffice no matter how high your rates go. You are also choosing to keep raising taxes, repeatedly and forever, because the spending line slopes up while the tax line stays flat. This is an arithmetic result that is independent of my policy preferences."http://keithhennessey.com/2012/08/11/campaign-ryan-budget/BTW, it's telling that Ryan's stellar pro-life voting record seems to have gained him no admirers on the Catholic left. His anti-abortion views (which are also anti-Rand views of course) are hardly mentioned. Progressives are quick to invoke the Sermon on the Mount but even quicker, it seems, to embrace the Alinsky maxim for dealing with an opponent - - Pick the Target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.

I'm happy Romney chose Ryan. Maybe now the campaign will begin to turn on the economy.Are Americans better off now than they were three years ago? Happier, more optimistic, more trusting of Washington?

"But unlike Ryans plan, the presidents wouldnt require the outright elimination of most federal programs within forty years."Respectfully, if you accept the numbers, then I don't see a basis for concluding so. At most, we're talking about a half-percentage point between the two plans. The difference is only that Ryan cuts more over a longer period of time, while the President cuts a half a percentage point but a relatively shorter period of time. Show me how the President will reduce non-defense discretionary domestic spending from 3.9% this year to 1.7% in 2022 without significant cuts in social spending. (And keep in mind, by the way, what a "cut" actually it is; it is merely a reduction in the rate of spending increases. It's not taking a dollar away that someone has now).But this encapsulates my entire problem with the "Paul Ryan is a scary extremist meme." When you actually lay out the proposals side-by-side they aren't that difference from one another. Democrats want to cut more from spending, Republicans want to reduce taxes on investing/saving. Essentially that's what this boils down to.

Mr. Molloy is on target. The silence on the Catholic left over Ryan's sterling pro-life record is deafening. Such a voting record is completely contrary to Ayn Rand's views--Rand was stridently pro-abortion. Such a voting record is also completely consistent with the constant teaching of the Church that abortion is evil. Finally, such a voting record is a clear mark of difference between Ryan and today's Democratic Party, which is almost as stridently pro-abortion as Ayn Rand was.

The facts are out there .The 1% pay a lot of income taxes but it's at a 20-% effective rate... raise dividends ,capital gains and carried interest to 20% Raising theb-----ds to a 25% overall rate, cut defense and there will be enough to keep USA great and pay off the wars they started. Ryan dissed the bi-partisan Bowles Simpson plan..not to be trusted.

Paul Ryans Fairy-Tale Budget Plan ... http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/opinion/paul-ryans-fairy-tale-budget-p... don't understand how people can care so much about the "unborn" and yet be ready to abandon the elderly, the disabled, the poor.

The performance of the stock market is definitly up since 3 yrs. ago. Besides economics, look at foreign policy. Can we afford to give the reigns over to two inexperienced "candidates"? It's always good for the stability of the country that a president have 4 more years if he has been proven concerning foreign policy. I think President Obama has earned that. I guess we'll see what the rest of the country thinks.

Nobody has mentioned the necessity to reduce the extortionate charges for many medications by some pharmos. For instance, I was prescribed a medication that cost me over $500 per month. I needed it to live, so I paid for it. When I got the generic drug it cost $36, and it works just fine. Morally such pricing is extortion. I am still taking two medications that cost a lot, lot more, though Medicare and Blue Cross pay for them. I don't know how the government can get past this problem without controlling prices, which would be undesirable in some ways, or by causing more competition among the pharmos. I do know that a lot of money is showered on the pharmos they don't deserve because of lack of competition. Sometimes I think the government itself should be allowed to do the research for particular drugs for particular illnesses and then put the formulas and production processes in the public domain. Limit the pharmos to producing the drugs, in other words. Why not?What is really enfuriating about these extortionists is that some of the R&D money for some of these drugs is paid for by the government. And we put up with it!!!

" I don't know anyone who is pro-abortion. Think about what that word means. It means you favor women becoming pregnant so you can help them abort their child and maybe profit from it. It is an ugly word, and it is used to emotionalize the debate when what we are really talking about is people who do not favor criminalizing abortion because they believe criminal statutes are ineffective ways to solve social evils. This makes them pro-choice, not pro-abortion."http://ncronline.org/news/politics/which-presidential-candidate-truly-pr...

Thorin --Ayn Rand was once asked in a TV interview what would happen to the poor in a nation that followed her principles. She replied, "They would perish".Now tell me this: what is the difference in effect between aborting a child and letting it be born and then having it perish for lack of food? (What do you think will happen when food stamp programs are gutted?)ISTM that some so-called "pro-life" folks aren't really pro- ALL life at all.

Ann,I don't think there is anyone in mainstream politics in America who favors letting poor children starve. If there are such people, they deserve nothing but scorn.There are, sadly, millions and millions of people in mainstream politics in America who favor letting children be dismembered in the womb.

Ryan may be clever with financial figures but his sophomoric adulation of Ayn Rand shows him to be intellectually challenged. Do not let him off the hook on this.Canon Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian: "When I was a teenager, my American girlfriend at the time gave me Ayn Rand's cult novel Atlas Shrugged to read. It changed her life, she said. It changed mine, too. She was not my girlfriend by the morning. It was the most unpleasant thing I'd ever had the misfortune to read."

"I dont think there is anyone in mainstream politics in America who favors letting poor children starve. If there are such people, they deserve nothing but scorn."Well, no one is in favor of abortion either, they just think it's a sad necessity.Rand-cultist Ryan would say the same about starving kids (and there are plenty of them in the USA, according to a BBC program I saw -- but you probably did not see it on US television).

@Jeff Landry (8/13, 4:55 pm) Thanks for engaging with one of the most problematic (in my view, at least) of Paul Ryan's various budgetary proposals: the numbers don't add up.In this case, it's a long-term projection that foresees a day when all federal "discretionary" spending will not exceed 3.5% of GDP...and the (entirely "discretionary") Defense Dept. budget will not be less than 4% of GDP.*Ryan's 2011 budget plan included $389 billion in unspecified Medicare savings, while also repealing the major cost-control features of the Affordable Care Act. http://www.city-journal.org/2011/eon0415jb.html*Ryan's 2012 budget plan specified reduced income tax rates (25% and 10%), but gave no specifics of loopholes and tax expenditures that would be eliminated to allow the federal government to collect the same revenue as under the current income tax structure. http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbarro/2012/03/25/the-ryan-tax-plan-isnt-... economist Brad DeLong places Ryan's proposals in a historical context: "In the past thirty-five years I have seen lots of Republican "willing to go out on a limb for useful but unpopular fiscal ideas", but in each case the problem is that the limb they go out on does not add up arithmetically. They propose unpopular but useful fiscal ideas in the overall context of a plan that is best summarized as: 2+2=576.That never works.It did not work in 1981. It did not work in 1989. It did not work in 2001. It did not work in 2003. It did not work in 2005.Arithmetic has to be primary. And, with Ryan, it simply isn't."

As Matthew predicted (and as I mentioned on another thread), this election cycle will be refreshingly about ideas, the direction the country should take, and force Americans to think about their national priorities. Ryan has enthusiastically put something on the table. I do not share his priorities, but I think his plan encourages people to take a realistic view at the fact that our economic landscape has changed, that the average American salary is shrinking, that there is more wage disparity among classes, and that job security as our parents knew it is a thing of the past. Moreover, I'm all for churches doing more. During the recent heat wave, the parish air-conditioned Bingo hall (equipped with kid-friendly movies, TVs, and games and books) sat locked idly, while many low-income folks with asthmatic kids and the elderly sweltered. I guess they're trying to save money for winter heating. Which, of course is what you do for the starving: Tell 'em they can't have bread today cuz you're saving up for soup for winter. Another chance for Catholics to say "we care" squandered.The Methodist ladies (Be Cool with Jesus!) and the local library (Now Serving Ice-Cold Books), fortunately, were more welcoming with their facilities.I really hope, contrary to some posts here, that the election discussions do not devolve, at least among Catholics, into arguments over reproductive issues. The federal government is not going to solve the problems of abortion or birth control (assuming you see birth control as a problem), and these are not the priorities of the majority of Americans.

Thorin --That's a false dichotomy. We do not have a choice between abortion and letting children starve. Both are terribly wrong. Our choice is between a candidate who thinks he can over-ride the will of the majority in a democracy and one who thinks the law is fine as it stands. Both Obama and Ryan are wrong.The only rational course for Americans who are anti-abortion AND pro-feeding hungry children is to *persuade* our neighbors that abortion is terribly wrong. But, even if, contrary to the behavior of other Republican presidents, Ryan and Romney packed the Supreme Court with conservative judicial activists, a decision banning abortion without the support of the people would leave the country more divided than ever with a Supreme Court weakened perhaps permanently. That is the risk of the democratic process -- the government can do terrible things when not supported by reasoning citizens. See how slavery was tolerated for hundreds of years.) The solution is not to change the system but to change the citizens views by persuasion. What do you think would have happened if the Marshall Court had simply outlawed slavery by a decision? The justices would have been recalled by the people quite legally and new ones put in who agreed with the populace, or there could have been another revolution. Remember, at the time of the Revolution, most Americans were pro-slavery.Face it, Bruce, only persuasion will change the law as it is interpreted now. Or, worse, if the conservatives stack the Court, there would be a movement to make abortion a *constitutional right* and, given the support choice has at this point, the movement would win, and abortion would be more institutionalized than it is now.Idealism is a fine thing. But idealism which is blind to actual circumstances can do more harm than good.

@Luke Hill:Just like it's important to keep in mind that a "cut" is actually only a reduction in the rate of increased spending on future outlays, it's important to remember that ALL of these "budgets" are, in fact, political documents with various "gimmick" assumptions to ensure that CBO scores them in the way they want them to. This is as true of Ryan's budget (as I have acknowledged) as it is of Pres. Obama's. Because the President also must know that he cannot make the rate of cuts he has proposed, and preserve existing entitlements, WITHOUT a tax increase on people making well below $250,000. Just as I have knocked Ryan's dishonesty when it comes to not putting defense spending on the table, I think it as dishonest for Pres. Obama to attack Romney/Ryan for raising taxes on the middle class when his own plan would require that. If the Clinton tax rates were so great as the President has said, then let everyone pay what they were paying under Clinton; that would actually be a plan. In short, it has become Gospel among the left that, as Matthew asserts, "Ryan believes, as a matter of principle, that the federal government has no business taking care of the old, the sick, and the destitute" (nevermind his actual statements to the contrary), so I suspect we'll get a near-daily ream of "Ryan as smiling extremist" posts. But I would suggest an alternative view of Ryan's proposals made by a center-right critic of Ryan as well: "There are many other aspects of the Ryan budget proposal that I consider less than perfect, e.g., defense expenditures are maintained at a very high level, the Medicaid block grants are not structured as well as they should be, discretionary spending levels might be too low, and the revenue component is less than ideal. Yet it does strike me as a good starting point for negotiations. Over time, Ryan has been willing to modify his Medicare proposal in response to constructive criticism, and my sense is that he and his allies would be willing to negotiate over revenues, etc., if the principle of structural Medicare reform were embraced." http://www.nationalreview.com/agenda/313765/brief-note-what-ryan-wyden-a...

Reihan Salam is a smart man, but his standards for fiscal policy seem a little low to me. He doesn't like what the Ryan budget does with Medicaid, and he'd prefer it didn't maintain defense spending "at a very high level," and, yes, its domestic discretionary spending "might" be too low (you can't get lower than nothing), and -- OK, since you mention it -- we probably should talk about increasing taxes, ahem, revenues. But the plan to reform Medicare -- not the politically toxic one in Ryan's 2011 budget (which Ryan himself described as "Ryan unplugged") but the one in his 2012 budget that would preserve traditional government-administered Medicare as a "public option" -- that seems sensible, no? At least as a "starting point for negotiations." One out of five ain't bad. The reason Salam thinks stuctural Medicare reform is the most important part of the Ryan budget is that it's the only part of the budget he's prepared to defend.By the way, pace Salam, the "constructive criticism" to which Ryan was responding when he overhauled his Medicare plan wasn't mainly from people like Alice Rivlin; it was from members of his own party who made it clear to him that they couldn't run in 2012 on "Ryan unplugged." What Salam doesn't seem to understand is that it is one thing to demand more than you expect to get as the starting point for negotiations (that's good strategy) and another to demand what you know, or ought to know, is impossible (that's bad faith).

"What Salam doesnt seem to understand is that it is one thing to demand more than you expect to get as the starting point for negotiations (thats good strategy) and another to demand what you know, or ought to know, is impossible (thats bad faith)."But again - assuming this statement is true for argument's sake - I don't understand how the same criticism cannot be asserted against the President.

Let me take a stab at this, Jeff, though it takes us away from the topic at hand, which is Ryan's fiscal plan, not the president's. The president's plan is not exempt from criticism, as I have conceded many, many times before. In fact, its principle virtue is its superiority to the Republican alternative, which is not saying much. But Obama is not demanding what he knows to be impossible; instead, he is proposing less than what he knows will eventually be necessary. Eventually we will need to let all the Bush tax cuts expire -- and we may need to raise them higher than they were under Clinton, and add a few new brackets, so that billionaires are paying a higher rate than successful dentists. Eventually, but not now. Why not now? Because letting all the Bush tax cuts expire now would hurt aggregate demand at a moment when the economy is still soft. Letting the cuts for those who make more than $250,000 a year expire won't have much effect on aggregate demand (the well-to-do can afford not to spend all their money), and it will be a good first step toward a more progressive tax policy, which is what the president ultimately wants and what the country badly needs.

@Jeff Landry (8:14, 11:42 am) Thanks for the reply. Actually, I disagree with your assertion (concession?) that "its important to remember that ALL of these budgets are, in fact, political documents with various gimmick assumptions to ensure that CBO scores them in the way they want them to. This is as true of Ryans budget (as I have acknowledged) as it is of Pres. Obamas...." Whether one likes Obama's plans (which, as Matthew Boudway says, are not exempt from criticism) or not, the numbers generally add up. If there's a deficit expected 10 or 20 years from now in one of Obama's budget plans, the expenses and incomes that result in that deficit are generally right there in his plans. Anyone else can take the numbers and run them.Not so for Ryan and Romney, who have repeatedly put forward policies in which vital information and numbers are completely left out. (Romney has at times stated that his vagueness is purposeful because if he were to be specific, his opponents would then criticize him.)So, for example, Ryan puts forward a plan to reduce from six to two the number of income tax brackets, and specifies the brackets will be 25% and 10%. His plan further assumes that those brackets will bring in the same revenue as the current system. It will do this by "closing loopholes"...but Ryan never specifies even a single loophole he'd like to see eliminated or narrowed.That's not an accounting "gimmick" to get a good CBO score. That's a ploy to make it impossible for the plan to be scored by the CBO, or anyone else. Why? Ryan won't say, but it seems reasonable to conclude that lowering income tax rates without lowering tax collections would require eliminating major, and widely popular, tax expenditures like the mortgage interest deduction. And Ryan isn't "brave" or "serious" enough about fiscal matters to take whatever criticism he might receive.It's not often that I cite David Stockman (AKA, the Paul Ryan of the Reagan Administration), but this is from his column today in the NY Times:"A true agenda to reform the welfare state would require a sweeping, income-based eligibility test, which would reduce or eliminate social insurance benefits for millions of affluent retirees. Without it, there is no math that can avoid giant tax increases or vast new borrowing. Yet the supposedly courageous Ryan plan would not cut one dime over the next decade from the $1.3 trillion-per-year cost of Social Security and Medicare. Instead, it shreds the measly means-tested safety net for the vulnerable: the roughly $100 billion per year for food stamps and cash assistance for needy families and the $300 billion budget for Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor and disabled. "[snip]"The Ryan Plan boils down to a fetish for cutting the top marginal income-tax rate for job creators i.e. the superwealthy to 25 percent and paying for it with an as-yet-undisclosed plan to broaden the tax base. "The whole column is worth reading. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/opinion/paul-ryans-fairy-tale-budget-p...

Ann,I agree with you that abortion and letting children starve are terribly wrong, and I also agree with you on the importance of persuasion. But reflexively defending Democratic politicians who are "pro-choice," as some do, does nothing to persuade anyone that abortion is terribly wrong. Nor does arguing, as some have, that no one really is pro-abortion. What such actions do is persuade other people that our opposition to abortion isn't serious. This is clearly shown by the trajectory of the Democratic party since Roe. Since Roe, the Democratic Party has moved from being a party with many pro-life politicians to one where anyone aspiring to national prominence must be "pro-choice."

Thorin,This is not a thread about abortion. Ryan's position on that issue is commendable, but his Catholic critics are not obliged to go through the motions of commending him for his prolife bona fides whenever we criticize him for his other positions, which, though not more important in an absolute sense, are arguably more relevant to this election, for some of the reasons Ann mentions, as well as others.If you believe the only way for prolife Catholics to persuade other people that our opposition to abortion is serious is to support any prolife politician who is running against any prochoice politician, then you should say that outright. In that case, you are opposed not only to "reflexively" defending Democratic politicians who are prochoice, but also to defending or supporting them unreflexively. (And what exactly would count as unreflexive support in your book?) I have discussed here why I disagree with that approach.

"But Obama is not demanding what he knows to be impossible; instead, he is proposing less than what he knows will eventually be necessary."In other words, what you mean is that the President is intentionally deceptive about what his budget proposals ultimately require: a tax increase on income less than $250,000, all the while he runs ads attacking Romney/Ryan for raising middle class income taxes. Of course, don't forget that he has already signed into law tax increases that will, conveniently for him, take effect in 2014 in order to pay for the ACA (after, of course, attacking John McCain for proposing the precise same tax in 2008). If that doesn't meet the definition of bad faith, I'm not quite sure what does. I can admit when my side peddles a bunch of BS; I have yet to come away convinced that anyone here can do the same for theirs.

No, Jeff, you're still missing a fundamental difference, which Luke pointed out in his last reply to you. Obama is not proposing a budget plan that only works if he does what he is specifically promising not to do. Romney and Ryan are. If you lower the income tax rate for top earners by as much as they want to, and promise your plan will be, at worst, revenue neutral, you will have to raise effective tax rates for everyone else. The Tax Policy Center pointed this out not long ago, and the right still doesn't have a good answer.

"Thats not an accounting gimmick to get a good CBO score. Thats a ploy to make it impossible for the plan to be scored by the CBO, or anyone else. Why? Ryan wont say, but it seems reasonable to conclude that lowering income tax rates without lowering tax collections would require eliminating major, and widely popular, tax expenditures like the mortgage interest deduction. And Ryan isnt brave or serious enough about fiscal matters to take whatever criticism he might receive."Out of all the reams that have been written on Ryan, I have to believe that this takes the cake for hilarity. To assert that Ryan won't specify which cuts he would make because he doesn't like criticism is simply laughable. Have you taken a look at this blog since Saturday?First of all, yet again, you seem to be operating on bad information. Contrary to your assertion above, here's a description of Ryan's tax proposal from Howard Gleckman from the TAx Policy Center: "The most recent House budget, however, was more mainstream GOP fare. It would cut the top individual rate to 25 percent (Romney would cut it to 28 percent), tax investment income at no more than 15 percent (like Romney), and keep the corporate income tax but lower the top rate to 25 percent (as would Romney)." http://taxvox.taxpolicycenter.org/2012/08/13/the-ryan-budget-plan-may-be..., this "he won't specify which loopholes he would abolish" attack makes it sound as though we have no idea where to begin. That's a canard; everyone knows which deductions, loopholes, etc. are on the block. In fact, here's a list: http://dailydish.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83451c45669e201761739ad40970c-popupNow we know the GOP would get rid the employer benefits exclusion because it has actually proposed this (which Obama, again, attacked McCain for). And we know the Democrats would get rid of all the investment capital stuff. So that leaves the mortgage interest deduction, and a handful of smaller exclusions related to property taxes, pension benefits, etc. There seems to be an emerging bipartisan consensus that the mortgage deduction should at least be capped, if not eliminated. So that leaves this basic argument: conservatives will want to protect the investment capital stuff, the liberals will want to protect the pension benefits stuff. Liberals will say that the GOP wants to give tax breaks to the fat cats; conservatives will Dems want to give tax benefits to pay off their union supporters.But this does take us back to the original "Ryan is a scary extremist" line in the original post, and it re-affirms my frustration with it: when you lay the proposals down with others, look at the numbers, flesh out the policy nuances, Ryan's proposals differ in a couple (expected) ways dramatically from left-leaning proposals (tax investment capital less vs. more, more government planning/directing vs. "devolved" cost-saving experimentation), but on the whole simply doesn't derivate from the broader policy proposals that are on the table in as nearly an extremist way that so many here would have us believe. Put another way, there's a lot of fluff and BS in Ryan's budget (which I have consistently admitted), but it doesn't seem to be any more than that contained in Obama's budget. I close, again, with Howard Gleckman:"Yet, Obamas fiscal plan is disappointing because it is so vague. There is simply no chance Congress will make the tough votes necessary to enact any serious tax reform without a president who is prepared to take the heat for specific, deeply controversial cuts in popular middle-class tax preferences."But Obamas budget contains little more than gauzy promises for a simpler, fairer and more progressive tax system or, elsewhere, a simpler, fairer and more efficient system. Know anybody against those principles?There are plenty of proposals to end corporate tax breaks, but when it comes to individual taxes, the Obama budget is the Oakland of tax policy. To borrow from Gertrude Stein, there is no there there."

"The Tax Policy Center pointed this out not long ago, and the right still doesnt have a good answer."Don't know about "the right", but the TAx Policy Center itself provided an answer to this:"Like Howard Gleckman, I dont interpret this as evidence that Governor Romney wants to increase taxes on the middle class in order to cut taxes for the rich, as an Obama campaign ad claimed. Instead, I view it as showing that his plan cant accomplish all his stated objectives. One can charitably view his plan as a combination of political signaling and the opening offer in what would, if he gets elected, become a negotiation.To get a sense of where such negotiation might lead, keep in mind that Romneys plan is not the first to propose a 28 percent top rate. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 did, as did the Bowles-Simpson proposal and the similar Domenici-Rivlin effort (on which I served). Unlike Governor Romneys proposal, all three of those tax reforms reflect political compromise. And in all three cases, part of that compromise was eliminating some tax preferences for saving and investment, which tend to be especially important for high-income taxpayers. In particular, all three reforms resulted in capital gains and dividends being taxed at ordinary income tax rates." http://taxvox.taxpolicycenter.org/2012/08/08/understanding-tpcs-analysis...

"If you lower the income tax rate for top earners by as much as they want to, and promise your plan will be, at worst, revenue neutral, you will have to raise effective tax rates for everyone else."This syllogism assumes lower tax rates do not stimulate growth, increasing economic output and hence, tax revenues. History has shown that, in fact, they do. Given our anemic economic recovery, I think it's time we go back to what has been shown to work.

Mark,You're wrong. The Tax Policy Center's study of Romney's tax-reform plan gives Romney the benefit of every doubt. It assumes that the lower tax rates he propose will stimulate the economy as much as Romney's advisers say it will. The math still doesn't work.History never shows anything as conclusively as a policy expert might like. But history does strongly suggest that your supply-side theory doesn't work. The periods of greatest economic growth in the last fifty years do not correspond to the periods when tax rates were lowest.

Jeff,Jonathan Chait responded best to your last line of argument. Quoting the same paragraph you quote, he answers:

So Gleckman is saying that Romney is not proposing a middle-class tax increase. True! Hes proposing a set of conditions that would require it. And Marron notes that Romney may not want to hike middle-class taxes. Quite likely true as well! Both Gleckman and Marron explicitly say that Romney would not have to raise middle class taxes if he changes the parameters of his plan. And yes, he may not like what his plan requires, and if he changes his plan, then the plan wont do what it currently does. But thats utterly consistent with noting that his current plan is to raise taxes on the middle class.Organizations like the TPC cherish their reputation for non-partisan accuracy, and the massive wave of accusations of partisan bias are obviously unpleasant. Gleckman and Marron are gingerly framing their commentary in the most friendly possible way. Imagine you have a teenager who says he plans to sleep until 11:30 the next day, go for a two-mile run, eat brunch, shower, and then drive to Chicago to meet his friends. You point out that even if he can run two miles as fast as the world record time, eats brunch at McDonald's, showers for two minutes, and drives 90 miles an hour on the freeway, hell be arriving after midnight. He may not have an explicit arrival time, and he may not want to arrive after midnight, but that is what his plan requires.

@Jeff Landry (8/14, 3:53 pm) Thanks for the response. And for the information from the Tax Policy Center. My understanding is that, in addition to the changes you listed, Ryan's plan proposes two basic income tax rates: a top rate of 25% and a bottom rate of 10%."Furthermore, this he wont specify which loopholes he would abolish attack makes it sound as though we have no idea where to begin. Thats a canard; everyone knows which deductions, loopholes, etc. are on the block...."I'm sorry I wasn't clearer. I agree with you; we all know which deductions, loopholes, tax credits, etc. are on the block. What we don't know is which deductions, loopholes, tax credits, etc. Paul Ryan proposes eliminating. We don't know that because (to the best of my knowledge) he hasn't said.Because he hasn't said, it's impossible to check his math, or find out how much revenue would be raised by one or another of his proposals.It's not Paul Ryan's fault that Beltway pundits call him "brave" and "serious" for the various iterations of his Roadmap and his budget plans. But as long as his proposals don't have the basic arithmetic needed to make the numbers add up in a realistic way, he is (in my view) undeserving of those accolades.

Matthew--Thanks for crediting me, but it's not my supply side theory. I believe Arthur Laffer popularized the idea, but my guess is that it's been around for a long time. It worked phenomenally well in the 1980s, under Ronald Reagan, and worked in the 1960s when Kennedy lowered tax rates. If it works when a Democratic president tries it, you know it must be good!If you think about it, it's completely intuitive. Of course people are going to invest more (and create more jobs) when their after tax return is higher.

Maybe intuitive, Mark, but not empirical.

Mark said:

This syllogism assumes lower tax rates do not stimulate growth, increasing economic output and hence, tax revenues. History has shown that, in fact, they do. Given our anemic economic recovery, I think its time we go back to what has been shown to work.

No it doesn't work. And the best test was under GW Bush. Can you come up with a citation for Reagan, because it didnt' work then, either.

Unagidon, what do you mean when you ask for a "citation" for Reagan? For some unexplained reason, you believe Reagan's tax cuts did not stimulate the economic growth, and growth in tax revenues, that ensued. How is a "citation" going to change your mind? Isn't it already made up?

Hasn't our country's post WWII experience demonstrated that the highest tax rates have produced periods of the strongest economic growth and prosperity? Trickle Down Economics has been a consistent failure but it works for the super-rich. That is all that seems to matter to most members of both parties in Congress.

Unagidon, what do you mean when you ask for a citation for Reagan? For some unexplained reason, you believe Reagans tax cuts did not stimulate the economic growth, and growth in tax revenues, that ensued. How is a citation going to change your mind? Isnt it already made up?

Let me explain my reasons. If we take a little trip down memory lane we see that Reagan's average unemployment rate was 7.5%; that he tripled the deficit (so could economic growth have come from this Keynesian stimulation?); and we see that wages have remained more or less stagnant since then even though the rich, who were the beneficiaries of the big tax cuts under Reagan and the Bushes, have grown exponentially. What is your reason for thinking that the Laffer Curve works? Or is your mind already made up?

Mark P. ==You're avoiding Matthew's question. Where are the reliable figures that show that Reagan's tax cuts stimulated the economy?You seem to think that "the economy" consists only of the very rich only.

Clinton seemed to have no trouble raising taxes, and the country prospered. It's hard to believe that trickle down economics could work. Based on an interview that CNN conducted with Ryan's college economics professor, Ryan tried to convince himself of these economic theories in college. He was eliciting advice from his professor then. He has held to these theories tenaciously. That doesn't make them right.

"Its not Paul Ryans fault that Beltway pundits call him brave and serious for the various iterations of his Roadmap and his budget plans. But as long as his proposals dont have the basic arithmetic needed to make the numbers add up in a realistic way, he is (in my view) undeserving of those accolades."At least one Democrat disagrees with you. http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2012/08/unscripted-prai... maybe 2, because I haven't (yet) seen Pres. Clinton backtrack his unscripted praise for him.I would just sum up what I'm trying to say: Ryan's budget proposal is not perfect. But, especially when compared with what's been "proposed" by the President, the histrionics that so many engage in with respect to it are unconvincing.

I always like it when I manage to stumble into agreement with William Galston, i.e. on why demonizing Ryan is a bad move:"Let me be specific. A number of Democrats once believedand some still dothat a well-crafted version of premium support is part of a balanced and sustainable long-term fix for Medicare. If the effect of the Ryan choice is to take not only the Ryan budgets version of premium support off the table, but also the kinds of approaches that Alice Rivlin and Ron Wyden have proposed, then well be left with far less appealing options for stabilizing Medicare.This is one example of a broader point: The status quo is a very poor point of departure for the decisions well have to makeif not in 2013, when we should, then later, and under duress. If Obama wins the election by playing on the fear of change, which is very real, then the election will settle nothing, and our already dysfunctional political system will be mired in gridlock indefinitely." http://www.tnr.com/blog/106142/why-demogoguing-paul-ryan-bad-democrats

@Jeff Landry (8/15, 10:22 am) Thanks for the link. I'm sure plenty of Democrats disagree with me...about this, and about many other things.I'm glad we have some agreement on the imperfect nature of Ryan's budget proposal(s).I wouldn't expect histrionics to be persuasive. However, I don't think pointing out the simple fact that Ryan's arithmetic doesn't add up is "histrionic".

I'm closer to Chait than Galston on this question:http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/08/dont-make-paul-ryan-sad-obama.html

"Im glad we have some agreement on the imperfect nature of Ryans budget proposal(s).I wouldnt expect histrionics to be persuasive. However, I dont think pointing out the simple fact that Ryans arithmetic doesnt add up is histrionic."I don't know, Luke, I find statements like "Ryan believes, as a matter of principle, that the federal government has no business taking care of the old, the sick, and the destitute" fairly histrionic. At least as histrionic as people who assert that pro-choice politicians are murderers. Or maybe as least as histrionic as Vice-Presidents (Catholic at that) who assert that opponents of Dodd-Frank's institutionalization of Too Big To Fail want to put people "back in chains". Now, if can we get some agreement on the imperfect nature of the budget proposals on your side, maybe we can get to actually solving the issues at hand.

@Jeff Landry (8/15, 2:28 pm) Okay, but can we agree that pointing out that Ryan's numbers don't add up isn't histrionic?

"Okay, but can we agree that pointing out that Ryans numbers dont add up isnt histrionic?"Luke, I don't think I ever said such, but of course that's not histrionic. It is histrionic, I think, to (a) claim that Ryan's proposals deviate in an extreme fashion from positions that were once advocated by Democrats (particularly, after the revisions to his proposals in response to bi-partisan criticism) & that have been proposed by various bipartisan groups, and (b) not acknowledge that Pres. Obama has a few mathematical problems of his own, e.g. double counting savings from the Iraq & Afghanistan wars that have already been counted, relying on the vaunted cutting of "waste, fraud & abuse" from Medicare, etc.

Jeff,Still not sure what you mean by "histrionic." Barbed? Rhetorical? Guilty. But I don't think what I wrote is in any way misleading. If you asked Paul Ryan whether the federal government (mark the "federal") should ever have created Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in the first place, I think it's pretty clear he would say No. On his view of federalism and subsidiarity, it's really up to state and local government, together with civil society, to take care of the poor and the elderly. He knows it would be reckless, as well as politically suicidal, to propose the outright elimination of these programs now -- and he's right about that. But the underlying principle behind his policies is the same one that led his ideological forbears to oppose Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid when these programs were first proposed. So saying that he believes, as a matter of principle (not policy), that the federal (as opposed to state) government has no business taking care of the old, the sick, and the destitute is not exactly false -- and is therefore nothing like saying that prochoice politicians are murderers.

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