Friday, January 7, 2011

Paul Ryan Is Tired of People Taking Him Seriously

I talked about doc fix yesterday; Ezra Klein put up a comprehensive post on CBO scoring and ACA repeal.  I didn't think I'd revisit this, but...

Paul Ryan has actually revived one of the stupidest talking points of the health care debate: the 10/6 myth.  From his press release:
The law was written to measure 10 years of tax increases to offset 6 years of new spending.
Now, this isn't a real tricky one.  It's false.  Here's an Ezra Klein post from April giving the numbers; I wrote about where this myth originated shortly thereafter, and I ended:
I'd also like to see how long the GOP intends to continue using this one, given that it depends on a tax that supposedly is already being collected.  Will it really be part of their anti-reform rhetoric this fall?  Will the non-existence of these taxes, on behalf of which the non-existent new IRS agents are presumably busily engaged in draconian enforcement measures, slow them up at all?  I'm looking forward to finding out. 
And we have our answer: no! 

In fact, Ryan's Budget Committee document is still talking about those fictional IRS agents.  Who are, presumably, about to be hired any second now to collect the fictional taxes that went into place last year. 

Now, where they really give away the game is in this Budget Committee release.  Here, Ryan does a Q&A about the challenging facts of the CBO estimate:
Claim: But now CBO says that the Democrats’ new law will reduce deficits by even more than before -- $230 billion as opposed to $145 billion.
Response: The original score was based on a 2010-2019 estimate.  The repeal is based on a 2012-2021 estimate.  Thus, the scoring window has been moved two years forward. CBO’s estimates for the years beyond 2019 are based on the same smoke-and-mirrors budgetary gimmicks that produced the initial estimate. Again, nothing has changed about the underlying flawed assumptions. Only the dates have changed. 
While the out years contain more fake deficit reduction, they also contain very real spending increases as the bill’s new subsidies and its expansion of Medicaid to childless adults continue to generate enormous costs. Moving past 2019 begins to give us a clearer picture of the total 10-year price tag of the bill – it will almost certainly be larger than $1 trillion, and will likely be closer to $2.6 trillion once a full 10 years of new costs are taken into account.  
Stop and think.  In his press release, which the Budget Committee Q&A refers you to, he's complaining about the 10/6 thing -- that is, that the ten year estimate is misleading because taxes, began immediately, while benefits were delayed four years.  And yet, here, he's acknowledging that years 3-12 of the ACA are projected to be better for the budget than years 1-10 of the ACA.  How could that be possible, if the law was set up to take in revenues immediately but then run ever-worsening deficits? 

(He's correct, by the way, that the fully-operational program will cost more than $1T; the Democrats did, in fact, stay under $1T in the initial bill by implementing it very slowly.  What's wrong here is that the revenues also phase in slowly, which is why the rest of CBO's deficit figures come out as they do).

Ryan completely ignores the CBO's projection that the second decade, now years 13-22, still shows even larger deficit reduction.  In fact, there's no mention at all of CBO's post-2021 estimates in any of the Budget Committee material I could find.  Not here.  Not here.  Not here.  Maybe it's somewhere, but near as I can tell they're just ignoring it.  That's dishonest in any respect, but it's especially dishonest when the committee is relying on the 10/6 claim.  If 10/6 was true, the second decade would be a disaster for the deficit, not (as CBO says) a major deficit reduction. 

Paul Ryan seems to want people to take him seriously, but this is incredibly shoddy work.   The 10/6 thing is fictional, and at this point is beyond nonsense.  The IRS agents are fictional.  Counting the doc fix as if the costs would magically disappear if ACA was repealed is a lie.  And see Ezra Klein's post yesterday (here, I'll link again) about double counting and the rest of it.  Just awful.


  1. I bet that if you tell modern Americans they're paying more taxes, many if not most of them will be inclined to believe you.

  2. I suppose we should be grateful that it took the Party of Evil as long as it did to figure out that they don't have to be serious or stick to facts or make numbers add up, because their own partisan media will back them up regardless and the "objective" media will always frame the issue as he said / she said ("Democrats dispute Rep. Ryan's claims.....", etc.). And then, as Brendan says above, the public is inclined to believe demagogic lies that comport with certain gut feelings, like "taxes are a nuisance" -- therefore taxes are always too high, therefore they must always have gone up recently rather than down.

    It's somewhat comical at the moment, watching them do all these backflips, but obviously you can't have a democracy for long if one major party just routinely lies and still manages to win. That's what I think Obama has never understood: His job is to treat these people as the threat to America that they are. He's still more widely trusted than they are, but for some reason seems really hesitant to make good use of that fact.

  3. Jeff - is it possible that Obama is trusted more than the opposition because he's really hesitant to make good use of that fact? In other words, the conciliatory gestures that drive us bats are what keeps him 50% in his approval ratings. (That's a real question; I don't know the answer.)

    Another part of Obama's problem is the magnitude of the crazy. If we had a relatively sane GOP mainstream and a far-right Dixiecrat party, it would be easy for Obama to go after the Dixies. The mainstream GOP would actually help him because they'd want to draw a line between themselves and the radicals. It was much easier in 1963 to separate the radical Bircher right from the GOP, and even the conservative movement, after Buckley more or less kicked them out. Today, Obama would have to claim that entire GOP is basically in the hands of radicals. I think that's true, but it's a hard case to make, particularly since a whole lot of the media, including the No Labels types, tend to describe our political battles on a left-center-right basis rather than left-center-radical, with the radicals making up most of the GOP. Thus, I think Obama's strategy is to give the radicals the rope to hang themselves. The radical-secular-socialist-Kenyan-anti-colonialist has 50% approval. In the short term, especially with a bad economy, it hasn't been doing a lot of good, but over the longer term, it might work.

    Obama's situation seems remarkably similar to FDR's at the beginning of his term. FDR was not constrained by a Repub opposition, but did have to manage a coalition of liberal and conservative Dems. In "Mr. Roosevelt on Stilts" an article in the November 29, 1933 edition of the New Republic, the author writes: "The head of a coalition government, accordingly, can exercise his freedom of action only within limits; the moment he irrevocably alienates his support on either the Right or Left, he is through. In the case of Mr. Roosevelt, you find that while he has acted with amazing boldness and imagination on a multitude of questions, he has shown great reluctance in facing up to a fight on any single clear-cut issue." Obama too, seems to lack the fighting spirit, but even in its absence, he's been pretty effective at getting a large part of his agenda passed. Maybe that's a feature, not a bug.

  4. Geoff, it's a good question, and I don't know the answer either. I wish we could run an experiment and find out, though (kind of like the SNL skits in which mild-mannered Barack Obama suddenly bulks up and becomes "The Rock" Obama).

    I mean, yeah, the guy got elected president and I didin't, so he probably understands some things about politics. But I think some of his recent comments suggest that even he's starting to wonder if he's mistaken a bug for a feaure.


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