Never one to mince words, Paul Krugman gets delightfully shrill on the plans Paul Ryan has for our economy.
What Mr. Ryan actually offers, then, are specific proposals that would sharply increase the deficit, plus an assertion that he has secret tax and spending plans that he refuses to share with us, but which will turn his overall plan into deficit reduction.
If this sounds like a joke, that’s because it is. Yet Mr. Ryan’s “plan” has been treated with great respect in Washington. He even received an award for fiscal responsibility from three of the leading deficit-scold pressure groups. What’s going on?
The answer, basically, is a triumph of style over substance. Over the longer term, the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it — and in Washington, “fiscal responsibility” is often equated with willingness to slash Medicare and Social Security, even if the purported savings would be used to cut taxes on the rich rather than to reduce deficits. Also, self-proclaimed centrists are always looking for conservatives they can praise to showcase their centrism, and Mr. Ryan has skillfully played into that weakness, talking a good game even if his numbers don’t add up.
The question now is whether Mr. Ryan’s undeserved reputation for honesty and fiscal responsibility can survive his participation in a deeply dishonest and irresponsible presidential campaign.
It doesn’t really matter if his numbers do or don’t add up. We have already seen that Mr. Ryan is, if not a full-bore hypocrite about such things as the Obama stimulus, he’s at least an opportunist. He’s also shown that even if you dress up snake oil and sell it as a scientifically tested cure for everything from the common cold to the limp dingus, it’s still snake oil.
The blame for the Republicans running a con man for VP isn’t really with the party or the candidate; they’ve been doing that for years. The blame is that the voters have let them get away with it. You would think that after Spiro Agnew and Dick Cheney we would have learned our lesson.