Saturday, April 4, 2009


Original Link:

by Ezra Klein

About a week ago, House Republicans emerged with a budget that was widely mocked because it contained no numbers and made no sense. This week, Representative Paul Ryan is proposing a budget that will be widely mocked because the numbers it contains make no sense. That's an improvement, to be sure, but it's the difference between a schoolchild missing a multiplication problem because he left it blank and missing a multiplication problem because he wrote down eleventy-seven. Numbers only matter if they're right.

These numbers are not right. Though nor is it clear they're really wrong. They're just sort of...made-up. The theory of the Republican plan appears to be that it allows Republicans to say that "The Republican budget achieves lower deficits than the Democratic plan in every year, and by 2019 yields half the deficit proposed by the president." And that's sort of true. If the Republican budget were adopted and its assumptions proved accurate, deficits would be lower than Obama is proposing. Also, the economy would collapse and seniors would die in the gutters and schools would crumble and Americans would literally choose to pay higher tax rates than they were being offered. But the estimated deficit would go down a bit.

Imagine if I wrote up a budget proposal for a small business and asserted that revenues will grow next year after Warren Buffett dumps several large bags of money on my doorstep. It would probably be true that if Warren Buffett dumped several large bags of money on my doorstep, revenues would increase. But he's not going to do that.

And we're not going to do this. We're not going to echo Hoover and radically slash spending amidst a demand slump. We're not going to voucherize Medicare and then tie the worth of the vouchers to a "premium payment" that grows more slowly than health costs and so is worth less every single year. We're not going to repeal the stimulus bill and let Pell Grants fall below inflation and let unemployment benefits expire and let Social Security benefits cease growing with the economy. We're not going to freeze funding for food stamps and home heating assistance and road repair and law enforcement. A five-year spending freeze is far beyond anything George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan ever contemplated. It's not what you do when you're responsible for running the government. It's what you propose when you're responsible for running the messaging.

I am, of course, ignoring one possibility. Look at the date. This could just be an April Fool's Day joke. And if it's not, then the fact that Ryan's communications director didn't move the unveiling to April 2nd suggests that the joke, in the long-run, is really on him.

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