Paul Ryan’s peek behind the curtain

We haven’t heard too much lately from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Since becoming one of the nation’s least popular politicians, he seems to be keeping a slightly lower profile.

He hasn’t disappeared entirely, however. This morning, the right-wing Wisconsinite chatted with Laura Ingraham about David Brooks’ provocative new NYT column.

To briefly recap, Brooks argued that today’s Republican Party “has separated itself from normal governance” and may no longer be “fit to govern.” To prove the point, the conservative columnist pointed to the GOP’s opposition to a debt-reduction deal that includes massive spending cuts and scrapping unnecessary (and unpopular) tax subsidies.

Ryan pushed back, arguing that Republicans can’t follow Brooks’ advice.

“What happens if you do what he’s saying, is then you can’t lower tax rates. So it does affect marginal tax rates. In order to lower marginal tax rates, you have to take away those loopholes so you can lower those tax rates. If you want to do what we call being revenue neutral … If you take a deal like that, you’re necessarily requiring tax rates to be higher for everybody. You need lower tax rates by going after tax loopholes. If you take away the tax loopholes without lowering tax rates, then you deny Congress the ability to lower everybody’s tax rates and you keep people’s tax rates high.”

Let’s take a moment to translate this. Ryan realizes that if policymakers ended these tax subsidies, it would help lower the deficit, and make it less necessary to make other cuts that would hurt working families.

But debt-reduction isn’t Ryan’s principal goal; cutting tax rates is. When the Republican House Budget Committee chairman argues that we’re facing some sort of debt crisis, it’s really just a shell game — Ryan wants tax cuts. Period. Full stop.

Sure, policymakers could scrap needless tax expenditures, but Ryan prefers to use those savings to pay for more tax cuts, not to pay for debt reduction.

And why is that? Because the lowest American tax burden in more than a half-century is, in Paul Ryan’s mind, too “high.”

Let this be the latest in a series of reminders: Republicans don’t really care about reducing the deficit or the debt. Their goal is to reduce government for ideological reasons, and they use the fiscal shortfall that they created as a thin pretense to pursue this agenda.