Rep. Paul Ryan (R—WI) has proposed a radical overhaul of federal spending and taxes to tackle the ballooning deficit. His "Roadmap for America's Future" — which proposes widespread reform of Medicare, Social Security, and income tax with a goal of halving the deficit by 2020 — has been hailed as a realistic blueprint for Republican fiscal policy in years ahead. But some prominent critics have suggested that Ryan's plan is just a giveaway to the rich and would ultimately increase the deficit. Is Ryan's plan a roadmap to fiscal health — or even greater deficits? (Watch The Week's Sunday Talk Show Briefing on how to tackle the deficit)
This plan is joke: Rep. Ryan is "a charlatan" and "flimflammer," says Paul Krugman at The New York Times. His proposal imposes draconian cuts in spending on social programs — including a gutting of Medicare — while offering giant tax cuts to the rich. But for technical reasons, the impressive claims about cutting deficit "in half by 2020" reflect only the spending cuts and exclude the loss in revenue from the tax giveaways. In practice, the plan would make deficits worse. Ryan is peddling the "audacity of dopes" — don't buy it.
"How to spot a flimflammer"
Actually the roadmap has real merit — it just need tweaking: "I think a defense of the congressman is in order," says the Tax Policy Center's Ted Gayer in the Christian Science Monitor. Federal budget projections assume that tax revenue will equal 19 percent of GDP in decades ahead. It's true that Ryan's current proposal would collect only 16 percent — but he has promised to tinker with the numbers in order to meet the nation's revenue needs. While he needs to make those changes, there's no question he has made a "useful contribution" to the deficit debate.
"Rep. Paul Ryan's tax reform is no flimflam"
Ryan's plan may not be the best answer, but at least he's trying: I tend to agree with Paul Krugman that Ryan's plan "won't balance the budget," says Ezra Klein at The Washington Post. But his "willingness to engage" in a substantive way with the politically thorny task of trying to rein in the deficit is worth applauding. It's not a vote winner. Credit Ryan for taking the risk and contributing to an important national conversation.
"On Paul Ryan"
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