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July 05, 2011 1:20 PM Paul Ryan’s peek behind the curtain

By Steve Benen

We haven’t heard too much lately from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Since becoming one of the nation’s least popular politicians, he seems to be keeping a slightly lower profile.

He hasn’t disappeared entirely, however. This morning, the right-wing Wisconsinite chatted with Laura Ingraham about David Brooks’ provocative new NYT column.

To briefly recap, Brooks argued that today’s Republican Party “has separated itself from normal governance” and may no longer be “fit to govern.” To prove the point, the conservative columnist pointed to the GOP’s opposition to a debt-reduction deal that includes massive spending cuts and scrapping unnecessary (and unpopular) tax subsidies.

Ryan pushed back, arguing that Republicans can’t follow Brooks’ advice.

“What happens if you do what he’s saying, is then you can’t lower tax rates. So it does affect marginal tax rates. In order to lower marginal tax rates, you have to take away those loopholes so you can lower those tax rates. If you want to do what we call being revenue neutral … If you take a deal like that, you’re necessarily requiring tax rates to be higher for everybody. You need lower tax rates by going after tax loopholes. If you take away the tax loopholes without lowering tax rates, then you deny Congress the ability to lower everybody’s tax rates and you keep people’s tax rates high.”

Let’s take a moment to translate this. Ryan realizes that if policymakers ended these tax subsidies, it would help lower the deficit, and make it less necessary to make other cuts that would hurt working families.

But debt-reduction isn’t Ryan’s principal goal; cutting tax rates is. When the Republican House Budget Committee chairman argues that we’re facing some sort of debt crisis, it’s really just a shell game — Ryan wants tax cuts. Period. Full stop.

Sure, policymakers could scrap needless tax expenditures, but Ryan prefers to use those savings to pay for more tax cuts, not to pay for debt reduction.

And why is that? Because the lowest American tax burden in more than a half-century is, in Paul Ryan’s mind, too “high.”

Let this be the latest in a series of reminders: Republicans don’t really care about reducing the deficit or the debt. Their goal is to reduce government for ideological reasons, and they use the fiscal shortfall that they created as a thin pretense to pursue this agenda.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • Ron Byers on July 05, 2011 1:30 PM:

    It doesn't take a genius to realize Ryan doesn't give a shit about deficits. His famous gut medicare deficit reduction plan used the savings to cut taxes for rich people.

    All Paul Ryan really cares about is making sure the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I wonder how he lives with himself.

  • c u n d gulag on July 05, 2011 1:34 PM:


    In all fainess to Congressman "Privatizing" Ryan, when you read what he said, it loses something from the original German.

  • martin on July 05, 2011 1:35 PM:

    Is it now complete Republican dogma that everything be "revenue neutral"?

    Baby, meet bathtub.

    ogrecto certain indeed, Mr Captcha

  • Han's Solo on July 05, 2011 1:40 PM:

    I must admit that this is the part of the deficit debate that makes little sense to me. Who says remaining revenue neutral is a goal? If you want to reduce the deficit you want to raise more revenue and pay less expense. Isn't this obvious?

    If Democrats would only accept budget cuts that were offset with other spending increases how do you think that would fly with Republicans?

  • Josef K on July 05, 2011 1:43 PM:

    Why is it Wisconsin produces such notable lunatics as Joe McCarthy, Ed Gein, Scott Walker, and Paul Ryan?

    Of all those notables, I think Gein is/was the only honest one out of the bunch. Granted he was a serial killer and cannibal, and the fact I'm putting him in with the others should tell you everything needed about the state of Wisconsin's GOP.

  • Brenna on July 05, 2011 1:55 PM:

    It also doesn't take a genius to realize Ryan is a flat out liar. He's also accusing Obama of ending Medicare as we know it.

    The best thing that can happen to this country is for Ryan to be defeated in 2012. He's truly dangerous, up there with Grover.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on July 05, 2011 1:59 PM:

    Why is it that you donkeys do not understand that which Congressman Ryan understands?

    The only problem with our economy is that the wealthy do NOT have enough wealth!

    Stop taxing the wealthy and all will be well with our economy!

    To again repeat our mottos:
    - More is never enough!
    - I've got mine, f*ck you!

  • dalloway on July 05, 2011 2:01 PM:

    I agree with the post up to the conclusion that Republicans are doing this for ideological reasons. Their "ideology" is a smokescreen, the only way these amoral con artists can get gullible people who aren't rich to back a party that's devoted to the interests of the rich. Republican politicians care about money and power, period. And they're willing to destroy our democracy to get it.

  • dj spellchecka on July 05, 2011 2:07 PM:

    following on from dalloway, as someone smarter than me recently noted: "there's only two kinds of republicans: millionaires and suckers."

  • kevo on July 05, 2011 2:08 PM:

    Quite frankly, I can't take any of our Congresscritters seriously when they show up in front of the cameras with $1000 suits on!

    Until our Congresscritters begin to dress the part, I won't hold my breath they'll do anything meaningful for the Middle Class, let alone the Working Class!

    Mr. Ryan, may I suggest a pair of Dickies, work boots and a pull-over T the next time you think we may listen to the tripe coming from your mouth!

    Yet, Mr. Ryan, dress alone doesn't make what you're saying any more sane! -Kevo

  • So naive, Steve on July 05, 2011 2:12 PM:

    Get it right, Steve. He also wants to fuck the poor and anyone else who doesn't vote R.

  • emjayay on July 05, 2011 2:35 PM:

    I just figured out why the German middle class has kept up while ours hasn't. It's not the government technical training, it's not the universal healthcare, it's not the high unionization rates and union guys on the corporate board.

    The US has spent thirty years sending all the profits from increased productivity to the very upper income people. (I didn't want to say "earners.") They spent all their money on Mercedes, Audis, BMWs, Lamborghinis (Audi), Rolls Royces (BMW) and Bentleys (VW). Also Bosch and Miele appliances.

    So, please lower tax rates for the rich, eliminate the estate tax, and aid our German brothers.

  • Schtick on July 05, 2011 2:42 PM:

    Why do they (repubs and their talking heads) always talk about tax "rate"? It doesn't make any difference what the tax rate is for the rich, they won't pay taxes that will amount to anything anyway. Their loopholes have loopholes so they even end up getting subsidies that everyone else pays for.

    crapcha....analysis agreatee....yes. now leave already.

  • Ryan is a Fool on July 05, 2011 2:48 PM:

    If you want to do what we call being revenue neutral …

    But that's not what we want to do, dumbass. We want to increase revenue.

  • Kathryn on July 05, 2011 2:58 PM:

    Wonderful comments, I'd vote for all of you. Of course. I doubt many who comment here have the green to become an esteemed (ha!) congressmen, citizen legislators my ass!

    Cund, thanks for the lol. Once again, what I'd give for a long lost Canadian relative.

  • mr. irony on July 05, 2011 4:00 PM:

    one year ago...

    "i think literally that if we raised the federal funds rate by a point, it would help push money into the economy." - paul ryan..

    he's a dumbass


  • Joe Friday on July 05, 2011 4:26 PM:

    Let this be the latest in a series of reminders: Republicans don't really care about reducing the deficit or the debt. Their goal is to reduce government for ideological reasons, and they use the fiscal shortfall that they created as a thin pretense to pursue this agenda.

    As always.

    But who will tell the people ? Surely not the White House. They've bought into the 'cut spending to reduce the deficit' meme.

  • Anonymous on July 05, 2011 6:54 PM:

    Republicans only want to reduce the debt/deficit when they are not in power. Because when get the reins to the economy, they will spend like drunken cowboys. Has always been true and it is surely true now, the only difference will be what excuse (republican priorities) they will use. So you see you didn't complete the thought: "Republicans don’t really care about reducing the deficit or the debt."
    And I can never believe: "Their goal is to reduce government for ideological reasons,". I mean when has that ever happened in the history of this country. Never is the correct answer and nobody is going to reduce govt. now.otiongoo lemmas

  • bruce k on July 05, 2011 7:20 PM:

    OK, the Repubs will soon realize they have won this fight beyond their wildest dreams and it's time to capitulate, on a 6-to-1 package of spending reductions over revenue increases. They will make it seem like they are being reasonable and fair by capitulating, while the Dems have sold out the American people. This is a travesty, and Brooks and the other conservatives are laughing at the timidity and stupidity of the Democrats and the media for letting this game be played on them.

  • Doug on July 05, 2011 10:34 PM:

    Au contraire bruce k, the fact that Rep. Ryan is being forced to DEFEND his position shows the Republicans are on the defensive; Brooks entire column is ample proof of that. Wall Street is starting to get nervous, their tame poodles have become feral tigers and profits, large profits, mind you, are at stake.
    Bought into the Republican talking points, haven't you? "Republicans have won", "time to capitulate", "Dems have sold out the American people", "this is a travesty", and "the timidity and stupidity of the Democrats". What, you couldn't work in socialism, facsism and Obamacare, too?
    Pitiful, just pitiful...

  • toowearyforoutrage on July 08, 2011 8:19 AM:

    "“What happens if you do what he’s saying, is then you can’t lower tax rates. So it does affect marginal tax rates. In order to lower marginal tax rates, you have to take away those loopholes so you can lower those tax rates. If you want to do what we call being revenue neutral … If you take a deal like that, you’re necessarily requiring tax rates to be higher for everybody. You need lower tax rates by going after tax loopholes. If you take away the tax loopholes without lowering tax rates, then you deny Congress the ability to lower everybody’s tax rates and you keep people’s tax rates high.”

    If you asked whether that was the tax cuts argument of a congressman or a schizophrenic off his meds, am I the only one who'd find it tough to decide?

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