DEFINE ‘RESPECTED’…. In a piece on the health care fight, the New York Times tells readers today, “As floor debate on the repeal measure opened on Tuesday, Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the Budget Committee, who is a respected voice on fiscal issues, declared that the health care law would ‘accelerate our country’s path toward bankruptcy.’”

There’s a couple of problems with the sentence, most notably the fact that the second half helps debunk the first half.

Obviously, a law that’s projected to reduce the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars in the first decade, and a trillion dollars in the second decade, necessarily can’t move the country closer to “bankruptcy.” Anyone who thinks this way probably shouldn’t be “a respected voice on fiscal issues.”

Which is precisely why it’s irksome when major news outlets make assertions like this. It creates a hard-to-shake public image, widely embraced by reporters, based on nothing but bogus perceptions.

Jamison Foser noted today:

Ryan voted for then-President Bush’s tax cuts in 2001, then argued for extending them last year. Those tax cuts have had rather significant fiscal consequences. Is Ryan deserving of this praise because, though he fights for tax cuts that lead to massive deficits, he acknowledges (but doesn’t do anything about) the fact that not all tax cuts pay for themselves? Ryan supported the Iraq war and voted for Bush’s Medicare prescription program, too, both of which contributed significantly to deficits. Ryan produced a budget proposal that would take about 50 years to balance the budget — except that it wouldn’t do so even then, as Ryan told CBO to base its assessment of the budget on the assumption that tax revenues would remain the same, even though the budget included costly tax cuts. Ryan continues to support deficit-increasing policies. And when asked what spending he’d cut specifically, Ryan can’t tell you the answer.

Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint may be a right-wing fantasy — slashing taxes on the rich while raising taxes for everyone else — but there’s nothing “respectable” about it. The plan calls for privatizing Social Security and gutting Medicare, and yet fails miserably in its intended goal — cutting the deficit. As Paul Krugman recently explained, the Ryan plan “is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.”

But Ryan nevertheless wins awards for fiscal responsibility, in large part because the political establishment is convinced the Ayn Rand disciple knows what he’s talking about. He doesn’t.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.