The New York Times follows a trend of stories about Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan and his relationship to the establishment GOP. Ryan must have either a top-notch PR team, or he’s benefiting from the soft bigotry of low expectations, because these reports – one in yesterday’s Washington Post, and this one today – make him out to be a Mensa member and not the same conservative budget fantasist that anyone giving a fair reading of his remarks would assume.

While Ryan’s austere “Roadmap for America’s Future” has faced resistance inside the establishment GOP, even though they individually parrot pretty much everything Ryan has in that document, as a whole, Ryan’s perspectives on the economy are fairly inane, and his prescriptions fairly brutal. For instance, the practical effect of his plan is that he would cut taxes for the richest 1% IN HALF, while raising taxes on the poor. Jamelle Bouie writes: “Households with incomes of more than $1 million would receive an average annual tax cut of $502,000, and the richest one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans would receive an average tax cut of $1.7 million a year… According to Citizens for Tax Justice, the Ryan plan would increase taxes by an average of $2,000 on everyone with an income under $100,000.”

I’ll let Kevin Drum take the rest apart:

This is an underappreciated aspect of Ryan’s plan. Another underappreciated aspect, and one that’s fast becoming a pet peeve of mine, is that there’s nothing “smart” or “brave” about it. For some reason, practically everyone talks about how Ryan is the only Republican in Congress who’s willing to put his money where his mouth is and tell us exactly what he’d cut out of the federal budget. But he doesn’t. His plan merely caps various kinds of spending: there’s a cap on Medicare, a cap on Social Security, and a cap on domestic spending. Reduced to its policy essence, that’s it.

Oh, and his plan doesn’t eliminate the deficit, either. Other than that, it’s pretty good.

Also, he wants to raise interest rates in the middle of a jobs crisis, and thinks that giving banks a bigger return to park money at the Fed will increase lending. And, he thinks the budget deficit is a terrible problem even though Treasury yields are low, and while acknowledging that government debt carries no risk. He’s a well-spoken moron. That’s progress?

That said, I don’t find it “strange” that official Washington seems to have a love affair with Ryan. He perfectly represents DC values. He wants the poor to “sacrifice more” while allowing the wealthy, the producers of jobs in his views, to have virtually none of this burden. He makes tough issues sound simple: just cap this, “voucherize” that (what the heck does it mean to “voucherize” Social Security? I can’t even imagine, but Ryan did say that), trust in free markets and elites, and you’re done. This appeals to the establishment DC mindset. They think it’ll appeal to the people as well. The fact that the power brokers in the Republican Party are doing everything they can to distance themselves from it, preferring to bring about these changes in secret rather than out in the open, shows that someone in power understands that people aren’t entirely enthused with massive tax cuts for everyone above their station and increases for them, while taking away their retirement security.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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