At a certain level, I should find the more buffoonish congressional Republicans more annoying — than the more “serious” GOP officials on Capitol Hill. After all, clowns like Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann are far more likely to say something offensive, come up with some wild conspiracy theory, introduce a ridiculous piece of legislation, etc.

But the opposite turns out to be true. I’m far more bothered by a guy like House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) than his clownish colleagues because so much of the political establishment actually believes Ryan is credible. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he’s perceived as some kind of “wonk,” whose opinions should be taken seriously.

The problem, of course, is that Ryan has no idea what he’s talking about. He fabricates claims, presents plans with numbers that don’t add up, and makes laughable policy arguments, and yet, Ryan’s reputation is impenetrable. Peggy Noonan’s nauseating love letter to the right-wing lawmaker last week — she praises Ryan as a “thinker” who “reads” — still linger as outrageous a week later.

It’d be problematic enough to evaluate Ryan on ideology alone — the extremism of this Ayn Rand acolyte is generally under-appreciated. But the problem goes much deeper, as he says things nearly every day that just aren’t true. Take Ryan’s latest salvo, for example.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the U.S is getting close to “a European-like situation,” and that not much can be done to change that course before the 2012 election.

Speaking Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Ryan said the most that could be hoped for in the next year was “a down-payment on the debt and deficits” to “calm down the credit markets.”

“We have no action on the real drivers of our debt, and meanwhile we’re getting closer to a debt crisis — to a European-like situation, and we’re not doing anything about it, and that’s what’s frustrating me,” Ryan said.

This is pure gibberish. No one who has even a passing familiarity with the basics could possibly believe the U.S. debt is “close” to the European debt crisis. It just doesn’t make any sense. Has he seen our interest rates? Does he realize how eager the rest of the world is to loan us money?

As for “the real drivers of our debt,” Ryan, as the Budget Committee chairman, should probably be aware of the fact that the biggest drivers of our debt are Republican policies. There’s even a handy chart available:

Of course, if Ryan were seriously concerned with the debt and avoiding a European-style crisis, he’d support additional tax revenue, but he doesn’t. Why? Because for him, arithmetic and fiscal responsibility aren’t terribly important. He has “an economic doctrine thing.”

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.