Is Paul Ryan a Flimflam Man?

Paul Krugman says Rep. Paul Ryan is a flimflam man because he claims his Roadmap would cut the federal deficit. The problem is that although the CBO scored his spending cuts, they didn’t score his tax plan, and when the Tax Policy Center took a look at it they concluded that his plan would reduce taxes a whole bunch, thus creating a considerably larger deficit than Ryan says. Megan McArdle pushes back, explaining that it’s the JCT that scores tax plans, not the CBO:

As a matter of fact, Paul Ryan is willing to work on the revenue side. And he has explained this — on his web site, in February, when these complaints were first aired.

….My recollection is also that Paul Ryan couldn’t get the JCT committee staff time anyway because they were a wee bit busy doing all the forecasts for health care reform….At any rate, the answer to Paul Krugman’s question “Why didn’t he ask” is that “He did, and they said no.”

While I remain skeptical that anything like the Roadmap is politically possible, Paul Ryan is doing exactly what any sensible congressional sponsor with limited access to CBO time does; he’s saying “Well, when this is getting close to being an actual bill, we’ll work with the CBO and the JCT to tweak the tax rates in order to provide the amount of revenue we need.” This is entirely normal.

Well….OK. Up to a point. But look: Ryan surely has some responsibility to make the tax side of his plan as realistic as possible, especially given his chosen role as toughminded truthteller. And the Tax Policy Center made it pretty clear months ago that he wasn’t even close to his revenue goal. It’s easy to wave this off as requiring mere “tweaks” to the tax rates, but those tweaks are exactly the place where anyone would quite reasonably be most suspicious of Ryan’s willingness to play fair. After all, two or three points of GDP is a lot of money, and a tax skeptic like Ryan is going to have a very hard time making the changes necessary to come up with that kind of dough.

Ryan’s Roadmap is 70 pages long and obviously the result of a lot of work. So why not put in a little more work and bring the tax side of the plan into the realm of reason? Is it really that cynical to think it’s because he’s trying to get credit for being a deficit fighter without having to give up the dramatic tax cuts for the rich he so obviously has his heart set on?

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