Setting the bar too low

SETTING THE BAR TOO LOW…. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is often held in high regard by the political establishment, especially in the media, in part because he seems more impressive than his House Republican colleagues. Ryan speaks in complete sentences; he seems to care about substance; and unlike everyone else in his party, he’s even willing to put his ideas on paper and subject them to scrutiny.

And if that’s all that were necessary to constitute a credible member of Congress, Paul Ryan would certainly be deserving of the accolades he’s received. But it’s really a classic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations — all it takes for the establishment to swoon over a Republican is evidence that he may have read a book once. Granted, this is a test most leading GOP voices fail, but it’s unwise to set the bar this low.

What really matters is whether the “genius of the day” has ideas with merit, whether his/her numbers add up, and whether stated plans would work (and for whom). In the case of Paul Ryan and his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” it’s a test he fails badly.

Paul Krugman tries to set Ryan’s fans straight today.

…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.

And I do mean slash. The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan’s total tax cuts. That’s not a misprint. Even as it slashed taxes at the top, the plan would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population.

Finally, let’s talk about those spending cuts. In its first decade, most of the alleged savings in the Ryan plan come from assuming zero dollar growth in domestic discretionary spending, which includes everything from energy policy to education to the court system. This would amount to a 25 percent cut once you adjust for inflation and population growth. How would such a severe cut be achieved? What specific programs would be slashed? Mr. Ryan doesn’t say.

Ryan does say that he intends to dismantle Medicare, but no one seriously believes this is possible — politically, economically, financially — which makes the foundation of the Ryan “roadmap” literally unbelievable.

I realize the political world loves to latch onto Republican personalities like this, and overlook all relevant details and evidence, but as Krugman concluded, the “Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.”