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Bill Black: Slate's William Saletan Epitomizes Media's Bizarre Infatuation with Paul Ryan

Saletan is head-over-heals in love with Paul Ryan and his DOA budget fantasy.

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(Note: my colleagues in UMKC economics have explained why we do not endorse the CBO’s budget estimation methodology or believe that any reliable projections of this nature can be made over 30 year time periods.  The CBO, during the Clinton-era budget surpluses, was projecting surpluses without end and the retirement of the entire national debt.  But Saletan purports to believe in this process, so it is fair to critique his consistency in having a love affair with Ryan’s given Ryan’s dishonest manipulation of that process.  We have often explained why we find Obama’s fiscal policy explanations incoherent and his support of Simpson-Bowles to be a grave threat to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.)

Saletan rests his final basis for his love of Ryan on a creation myth:  “But this is why God made Republicans: to force a reality check when Democrats overpromise and overspend.”  Ryan voted for Bush’s (as Saletan defines these terms) “overpromise[ing] and overspend[ing].”  Note that Saletan has again conveniently forgotten about the revenue side – where Ryan consistently voted in favor of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy that produced large budget deficits.  Under his own creation myth, Saletan should hate Ryan as a traitor to God’s plan for Republicans.  Ryan consistently failed “to force a reality check” on Bush.

It was also Bush’s anti-regulatory policies (compounding Clinton’s anti-regulatory policies) and support for perverse executive and professional compensation that combined to form the criminogenic environment that led to the epidemic of mortgage fraud that hyper-inflated the bubble, drove the financial crisis, and caused the Great Recession and the large deficits.  Ryan and Romney were enthusiastic supporters of each of the perverse structures that caused the crisis and the deficits.  The Republicans never forced a “reality check” when the banks’ senior officers became wealthy by causing “their” banks to make and purchase millions of fraudulent liar’s loans annually.

The Three “R’s” – Romney, Ryan, and Republicans – inhabited Never Never Land throughout the developing crisis.  The budgets they created and supported were invariably Tinker Bell fantasy budgets.  Ryan’s faux budget is not the work of a green eye-shaded accountant crunching the real numbers.  Ryan found it so much more convenient to create fantasy numbers that had no basis in reality but aided his political ambition and his devotion to Ayn Rand’s devotion to Social Darwinism.  The great thing about being the Chair of the House Budget Committee is that Ryan could order the CBO to assume that the fantasy numbers he invented were true.  For someone who (1) was wealthy and wished to minimize his taxes, (2) whose principal donors were extraordinarily wealthy and wished to minimize their taxes, (3) who was an Ayn Rand devotee who believed that taxing the rich was an illegitimate confiscation of their wealth, and (4) had touted the “supply sider” nostrum that reducing taxes on the wealthy increases tax revenues the ability to order the CBO to accept his assertion that sharply reducing taxes on the wealthy would increase tax revenues was a dream come true.

It is easy to understand why Ryan abused the CBO process to create faux legitimacy for his faux budget.  It is difficult to see why even the most credulous journalist would be taken in by such a transparent abuse premised on self-serving fantasy numbers and deliberate disrespect for the truth.  Then there’s the matter of Ryan’s track record.  His predictions about Bush’s tax cuts and the resultant deficits have consistently been proven to be embarrassingly wrong and his endorsement of Europe’s austerity dogma has proven disastrous.  Ryan’s batting average would get him fired at a Single A minor league team.