Friday, April 08, 2011

The old switcheroo:

David Brooks, responding (sort of) to the hail of criticism of Paul Ryan's budget plan, tries to make the debate about something else:
The best thing about the long-term budget proposal from Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is that it forces Americans to confront the implications of their choices. If voters want taxes that amount to roughly 18 percent of G.D.P., then they are going to have to accept a government that looks roughly like what Ryan is describing.

The Democrats are on defense because they are unwilling to ask voters to confront the implications of their choices. Democrats seem to believe that most Americans want to preserve the 20th-century welfare state programs. But they are unwilling to ask voters to pay for them, and they are unwilling to describe the tax increases that would be required to cover their exploding future costs.
Sorry, but the Ryan budget was primarily supposed to address the debt, which it fails to do because the program cuts are used to enable further tax cuts on the rich.

Brooks on Monday:
Over the past few weeks, a number of groups, including the ex-chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisers and 64 prominent budget experts, have issued letters arguing that the debt situation is so dire that doing nothing is not a survivable option. What they lacked was courageous political leadership — a powerful elected official willing to issue a proposal, willing to take a stand, willing to face the political perils.

The country lacked that leadership until today. Today, Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is scheduled to release the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes.
Brooks on Friday:
No mention of Ryan's plan regarding the debt! Instead, this:
... a bipartisan budget deal should ... slow the growth in health care benefits now and dedicate that money to paying down the debt and investing in the young.
Which Ryan's plan doesn't do at all.
What everybody has been squawking about for months has been the debt (two commissions, remember?). But Brooks, in defending Ryan, would have you believe that the hot topic of recent months has been about the size of government. He's trying to switch the topic. Krugman:
... has anybody besides Bruce Bartlett noticed that Ryan still hasn’t gotten an independent estimate of the revenue losses from his tax plan? Last summer I pointed out that he was getting a free pass on tax cuts that appeared likely to lose a lot of revenue; his defenders came up with all sorts of excuses about how he couldn’t get anyone to do a proper estimate. ...

The truth is that his plan would almost surely lead to a large rise in the deficit.
As far as voters caring about "taxes that amount to roughly 18 percent of G.D.P.", that's nonsense. Nobody thinks that way. They care about their own taxes. Is 18 percent of G.D.P. good or bad? Who knows? But it conveniently masks whatever rate is being paid by the rich by lumping everybody together - a kind of flat-tax sensibility that Brooks no doubt approves of.


Brooks can readily play the role of the Mugwomp on the fence, especially with Krugman's expose of Ryan at Krugman's NYTimes Blog that Brooks cannot ignore. (Maybe if and when Brooks gets a Nobel Prize in social studies he can try to challenge Krugman.)

By Blogger Shag from Brookline, at 4/08/2011 8:07 AM  

Non-economists often receive the Econ Nobel. At least one psychologist has received it along with political scientists (a field with rather little prestige in the social science world) and sociologists. Brooksy is no social scientist, although he has a BA in history.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/08/2011 7:12 PM  

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