Nobody From Nowhere (@i8dc)

Occasional Common Sense

Paul Ryan’s “Fiscal Fantasy” Critique of… Paul Ryan?

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Congressman Paul Ryan makes a great point here. “I’ve got a better idea.  Let’s pass a bill to cover the moon with yogurt that will cost $5 trillion today.  And then let’s pass a bill the next day to cancel that bill!  We could save $5 trillion!”

Senator Reid’s plan includes “cuts” to defense spending based on reductions in future spending in Iraq and Afghanistan that are widely expected to occur already.  It’s absurd to call these cuts, as they should be part of the baseline.

But what about Ryan’s own “Roadmap for America’s Future” budget?  There wouldn’t be any similar fudging in there, hmmm?

Well golly gee whiz, what do you know.  Right there at the top of summary table S-4 are the savings from reduced costs in the “Global War on Terror”: $1.044 trillion.  How interesting that he now lambasts as “fiscal fantasy” something he counted as 18% of the spending reductions against the current baseline in his budget – a budget held up as the gold standard despite its untested revenue assertions (Ryan directed CBO not to score that part), fictional savings (he claims $1.4 trillion in reduced spending by repealing the Affordable Care Act, a notion contradicted by the CBO), and now “fiscal fantasy” spending cuts.

Ryan’s responded to this criticism by noting that the $6.2 trillion touted by Roadmap proponents is a comparison not to the CBO baseline, but to Obama’s 2012 budget — which doesn’t include the war savings.  Unfortunately for Ryan, all of the discussions that we’ve been having during this debt ceiling freak show, including the CBO scoring here and here, have been based on CBO’s current policy baseline.  So while Boehner specifically removed the war wind-down “savings” from his plan, the Ryan budget specifically did not, and includes $1.044 trillion in its $5.8 trillion of claimed spending reductions from the baseline.

Ryan justifies this by saying that the CBO current policy baseline is unrealistic because it assumes continuation of current law, including expiration of the Bush tax cuts and continue war spending at current levels, which is why CBO also has an alternative fiscal scenario that Ryan says “assumes more realistic outcomes.”  CBO, however, doesn’t describe its alternative scenario as more realistic, noting that we’d reach historic debt/GDP ratios within 15 years.  This is the scary baseline Ryan wants you to believe, but it’s not based on current law.  And given the performance of Congress lately, current law’s a better starting point than anything else.

By the way, has anybody noticed that Ryan’s budget would increase the national debt faster than the baseline over the next decade?  Top of page 3.

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Written by David Clayton

July 29, 2011 at 9:56 pm

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