Mitt Romney

Are Paul Ryan's Budget Plans Radical or Weak Beer?


So it's a Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan ticket.

Rep. Ryan (R-Wis.) has distinguished himself as a serious politician who was ready and willing to talk substantive budget issues years before even his own party's leadership wanted to have that conversation. He's been characterized by Democrats and other opponents as a radical budget-cutter who wants to toss granny out of her wheelchair and down a flight of stairs, like Richard Widmark did in Kiss of Death.

The first thing I think worth saying about the Ryan pick is that it shows Romney has not given up. While the vice-presidential candidate in the end doesn't make a lot of difference, it shows that Romney isn't afraid to pick someone who is young and vital. Imagine if Romney had gone with a color-of-water pick such as former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) whose impressive record in office was undercut by his Minnesota Nice exterior.

Commentators will line up quickly to praise or damn the Ryan selection, but it strikes me operationally as a smart choice, especially if Ryan plays the traditional attack-dog role that vice-presidential candidates are supposed to. He is in a good, knowledgeable position to rebut claims that capitalism is always at fault. Then again, from a small-government libertarian perspective, he voted for Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, TARP, auto bailouts, and all the wars waged by George W. Bush. So even as he makes the 2012 election race more interesting and hotly contested, he underscores the fact that today's GOP is offering an echo of the Democratic Party, not a real alternative.

To the immediate issue: Is Paul Ryan the budget-slashing psycho that his detractors will immediately start saying he is? Not hardly. Here's some info about the budget plan he released earlier this year—a plan the GOP House embraced and passed:

The Ryan/congressional GOP budget has been released. As a starting point, consider this: The Ryan plan says that we will spend $3.6 trillion this year while bringing in $2.4 trillion in FY2012. In contrast, President Obama's budget says that we will shell out $3.8 trillion in FY2012 and bring in $2.5 trillion.

In brief, the Ryan plan is not as bad as President's Obama budget, which wants to spend $3.8 trillion in FY2013 and envisions spending $5.8 trillion in FY2022. Over the next 10 years, Obama assumes that federal spending would amount to 22.5 percent of GDP while revenues would average just 19.2 percent of GDP. That ain't no way to run a country.

In this sense, Ryan's plan is slightly better but still doesn't pass the laugh test. He would spend $3.5 trillion in 2013 and $4.9 trillion in 2022 (all figures in the post are in current dollars unless otherwise noted). Spending as an average of GDP would average 20 percent of GDP and revenue would amount to just 18.3 percent. Go here to read the whole plan; figures on outlays and revenue are in Table S-1.

As I noted in my headline for that March 21 blog post, Ryan's plan is better than Obama's plan and it might even be good enough for government work. But it ain't good.

Yet Ryan's plan is weak tea. Here we are, years into a governmental deficit situation that shows no sign of ending. How is it that Ryan and the Republican leadership cannot even dream of balancing a budget over 10 years' time? All of the discussion of reforming entitlements and the tax code and everything else is really great and necessary—I mean that sincerely—but when you cannot envision a way of reducing government spending after a decade-plus of an unrestrained spending binge, then you are not serious about cutting government. If Milton Friedman was right that spending is the proper measure of the government's size and scope in everybody's life, then the establishment GOP is signaling what we knew all along: They are simply an echo of the Democratic Party.

And keep in mind that reducing government spending isn't simply an ideological point of pride. Government spending crowds out private spending, which tends to be more efficient and effective. Raising taxes to pay for government spending (or even to reduce deficits) is a tough slog. Former Obama chief economist Christina Romer's reputation-making works shows that raising taxes 1 percent of GDP to cut deficits leads to a 3 percent reduction in GDP. And as Veronique de Rugy has written, the most-proven way countries with advanced economies have reduced debt-to-GDP ratios is by cutting spending. It's not by raising spending and raising taxes.

Read the whole thing here.

And make no mistake: Unabated deficit spending does lead to increased taxes sooner or later.

In 2011, de Rugy and I detailed "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" in Paul Ryan's earlier version of the plan. We hoped that Ryan's basic premise of increasing annual federal spending by a trillion dollars would become the ceiling of acceptable discourse. After all, the 21st century has been nothing but a massive expansion of government spending (60 percent in real terms under Bush alone) and folks such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have put forth thoughtful alternatives to actually cut government spending.

But it nows seems that the 2012 election may come down to a vision of a government that either spends $1 trillion or $2 trillion more annually than we do now. Which is not a welcome development.

Reason on Paul Ryan.

And although he's since denounced ideological flashpoint Ayn Rand in the pages of National Review, here's Ryan praising the Atlas Shrugged author for promoting a moral defense of capitalism:

NEXT: Paul Ryan is Romney VP Pick

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  1. Man, I absolutely can’t want to see Ryan debate Biden, just for the entertainment value.

    It’s going to be like Einstein talking to one of Jerry’s Kids.

    1. I’m not so sure it won’t sound like an echo chamber instead.*

      *If they each told the truth, that is.

      1. John Jackson: “It’s time someone had the courage to stand up and say: I’m against those things that everybody hates.”
        Jack Johnson: “Now, I respect my opponent. I think he’s a good man. But quite frankly, I agree with everything he just said.”
        John Jackson: “I say your three cent titanium tax goes too far.”
        Jack Johnson: “And I say your three cent titanium tax doesn’t go too far enough.”

        1. Yes, but does he favor massive subsidies to the brain slug planet?

        2. He says there aren’t any easy answers.
          I say, he’s not looking hard enough!
          — Bart’s campaign speech against Martin, “Lisa’s Substitute”

    2. Yeah. Even if his positions on a lot of things aren’t that different, the difference in intellect will be stunning. In fact, if they do have the same policy prescriptions as some say, that gap will be even clearer. It’s not because Ryan’s a genius, he’s just smart. Biden is otherworldly stupid.

    3. Jerry’s kids are physically disabled, not mentally.

    4. Jerry’s kids had nervous system diseases; they weren’t retards.

  2. Then again, from a small-government libertarian perspective, he voted for Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, TARP, auto bailouts, and all the wars waged by George W. Bush.

    So he’s a pragmatic bipartisan moderate; David Brooks will be thrilled.

    1. He also voted for indefinite detention without trial.

    2. You will never know that from all the wailing on the left.

  3. Who’s the first media person that will infer that Ryan is a racist?

    1. My money is on Bob Beckle

    2. Don’t you know? He’s worse than a racist; he’s a Kochtopus libertarian!

  4. Due to overwhelming interest, I’ve decided to set up a second FFL. Introducing The Reason H and R You Didn’t Build That Fantasy Football League (password: reason).

    Anybody that didn’t get in the Second Annual J sub D Memorial still has a chance to match their wits and football acumen against such luminaries as…me and Xenocles so far.

    Also, if you do register, make sure you’re one of the odd numbered registrants. What with the current divisional manes, it’s the only way to avoid shame.

      1. It should be in the link above. Or here:


        1. “You are not allowed to view this page because you are not in this league. (Error #152)”

          1. OK. Click the top link and the
            league ID is: You Didn’t Build That
            password: reason

            That should work fine.

            1. Fuck! League ID # is 457394. Password is: reason.

              1. Obviously, your Fantasy Football League needs some government subsidies? in the order to be viable. How many billions do you think you’ll need?

      2. Looks like it’s in the link.

        If only I wasn’t so sure that FF would consume my life, I’d try it out.

        1. Just fucking do it already.

          1. Dude, I already spent over $3000 on tickets for this year, and will certainly spend more when playoffs roll around. Every Sunday for 5 months is booked, as well as some Mondays and Thursdays. If I dip my toe into fantasy football, I will do nothing besides work and football.

            1. Fine. Fuck you. We don’t need any Massholes anyway.

              **sulks away**

            2. What are you doing Saturdays? Come to the field in Pelham Bay Park where Rice Stadium used to be and see Warriors games. I don’t know if I’ll be coaching a Pee Wee or Jr. Pee Wee team this year, but I don’t want the Mites (who’ll play on Sun.).

    1. Is football the one with the big red ball and the basket?

      1. No, you’re thinking of ABC’s Wipeout.

  5. Did anyone really expect Romney and the Republican establishment to choose a Veep who was actually in favor or actually cutting government?

  6. “Ryan is effectively holding a mirror up to Obama. Will he live up to the promise of his 2008 campaign, and engage in a substantive policy debate when given the chance? Or will he continue to run a campaign aimed at destroying his opponent, engaging the the same sort of politics of division that he once decried?”…..CZvkqDHmSq

    1. If the answer isn’t obvious enough, I can’t help you, Mr. Writer at the Washington Examiner.

      Romney could do worse if played campaign ads 24/7 with nothing but Obama lamenting the negative ads in campaigns.

      1. I think the best strategy is just to play Obama making a promise in 07-08, then show the actual result.

        1. Fact-checking is racist, straight up

          1. That’s just part of a deeper issue: reality is racist.

        2. They should have ads pitting candidate Obama versus president Obama, ideally making it sound like 2008 candidate Obama is criticizing president Obama.

          1. That would be gold.

  7. “zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin…an authentically dangerous zealot…a smiling, aw-shucks murderer of opportunity, a creator of dystopias in which he never will have to live”…..ed-states/

    1. What evs. Four out of seven zombie apocalypses have been caused by democrats in my life time alone.

  8. The answer to the headline is yes. Weak beer for what we actually need, disturbingly considered radical compared to the DC establishment. Probably not enough to make a real difference.

    1. Yeah, I was going to say both, which only shows how fucked we are.

  9. Yes, Ryan’s budget plans are radically weak beer.

    The important thing is that you guys are missing the live stream of the World Pipe Band Championship from Glasgow, courtesy of the BBC. All the Ontario bands made it to the final this year – exciting for those of us in the Ontario Pipers and Pipe Band Association.


    1. Hey, didn’t you go to that last year?

    2. Nice. I’m going to Scotland next week and, among other things, will attend the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Love the bagpipes.

      Hey, is the announcer a Canuck? Sounds like it.

      1. Yep – that’s the great Bob Worral from Burlington, ON. Great solo player, band player, instructor, judge – and a most-excellent commentator.

        Enjoy Edinburgh! We went to the tattoo the first year we went over for the World’s back in the 90’s. It’s quite a spectacle – not so much the thing for the competitive piper, but for the civilians…:) Get hammered drunk at the Ensign Ewart on the way into the castle and it’s a LOT more fun. We drank there with a bunch of Germans and Australians – they were fun as hell.

  10. The Ryan plan says that we will spend $3.6 trillion this year while bringing in $2.4 trillion in FY2012. In contrast, President Obama’s budget says that we will shell out $3.8 trillion in FY2012 and bring in $2.5 trillion.

    And in my plan, my wife will spend 1-1/2 times my take-home pay, while I bring in the divorce papers.

  11. Good luck with that.

    “The intertwined subjects of medical marijuana, Montana law and medical necessity have no relevance to determining whether the government has proven the crimes charged in the indictment,” U.S. Assistant Attorney Joe Thaggard wrote in a legal brief. “Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law ? and can’t be dispensed under a prescription.”

    But defense lawyers counter that their clients only became medical marijuana providers after statements by federal officials ? including President Barack Obama ? saying that patients and caregivers were a low priority for prosecutors. Those statements, the defense attorneys alleged, enticed caregivers into the rapidly growing field.

    “It’s unprecedented that the United States has filed a motion trying to prohibit a defense, but in these medical marijuana cases that’s their line of thinking,” said Michael Donahoe, a federal defense attorney. “I want to be frank ? the government is wrong here. This was entrapment.”

    ps- the character limit STILL SUCKS.

  12. And-

    … Thaggard noted that while Williams and Lindsey willingly showed their business to Montana law enforcement officers and legislators, they never sought assurance from federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Drug Enforcement Agency



    Gold Medal in Soccer! 2-1 ! Fuck you, Brazil! Ha ha ha!!!!!

    1. Not to be a dick, but…isn’t that kind of like winning a Junior Varsity World Title?

      1. It’s a pretty good accomplishment actually, and the Mexicans have pushed their game to a level now where they are a reasonable pick for an outside chance in the big one in 2014.

        The problem for everyone who is not Brazil is that 2014 is in Brazil. Bad timing for the Mexicans.

        1. Yeah, everyone thought pretty much the same thing in 1950 – Brazil hosts, Brazil wins.

          Funny how that turned out.

        2. “It’s a pretty good accomplishment actually, ”

          Sorry Voros, saying it don’t make it so. The Olympic teams are “weak beer” to stay on topic.

          You may be right that the Mexicans have pushed their game to a new level, but the Olympics is not a venue that proves anything re soccer/football.

    2. Caralho!! A puta que pareu!!

  14. Isn’t the term “small beer”? – or have I been out of the country for too long?

    Anyway – a hollow party selects a hollow man who selects a weak beer.

  15. Robert Reich is still making shit up.

    A mandatory three weeks off would be good for everyone ? including employers.

    Studies show workers who take time off are more productive after their batteries are recharged. They have higher morale, and are less likely to mentally check out on the job.

    This means more output per worker ? enough to compensate employers for the cost of hiring additional workers to cover for everyone’s three weeks’ vacation time.

    It’s also a win for the economy, because these additional workers would bring down the level of unemployment and put more money into more people’s pockets. This extra purchasing power would boost the economy overall.


    And I guarantee it would also be a winner among voters.

    Free shit for everybody! What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Mandating less production is definitely going to lead to more production… Look how well France has turned out!

    2. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I loathe Reich.

    3. He might have a point when it comes to certain industries, but to make the blanket statement that it will benefit everyone shows only that this guy has never worked a day in his life, except for in is ivory tower.

  16. toss granny out of her wheelchair and down a flight of stairs, like Richard Widmark

    Bravo. If I ever run for office my campaign ads will feature this clip/allusion and nothing else about my opponent. Even if I am running against a old black woman in a wheelchair.

  17. The budget plan by the guy that the Dems will undoubtedly label “RADICAL!!!” is simply a series of annual deficits that adds to the national debt at a rate slower rate than Obama. I’m going to take a nap. Wake me up in mid November.

    1. wake up a week earlier and vote for Gary Johnson

  18. What’s with the Ayn Rand shit? She was a Bolshevik plant to facilitate the Jews exploitation of Capitalism to siphon money from the Gentiles. And people like Ron Paul (and Paul Ryan), who associate themselves with Rand’s philosophy are just tools of the Jew bankers.

    Must read!


    1. And somebody tell Sheldon Rich he’s a punk ass bitch for taking this off his Facebook post about Rand and Ryan. People need to be aware of assholes like this. Unless, Richman is a tool of the anti-Semites.

    2. JOOS!!!!!!!!!!!

    3. JOOS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    4. How do I subscribe to your newsletter?

  19. At least Ryan has something on the table. Nobody on the Democrat side has even addressed entitlement reform, tax reform or the size of government.

    There isn’t going to be an end-all, be-all solution. The Ryan budget is a starting point in a series of reforms that will be needed over time. Of course it doesn’t go far enough but politically it is going to be impossible to impose a libertarians dream of a solution on the general public at this juncture. Ryan can educate the public and we can bring them along when the reforms start to work.

    1. The Ryan budget is a starting point in a series of reforms that will be needed over time. Of course it doesn’t go far enough but politically it is going to be impossible to impose a libertarians dream of a solution…

      There’s something to what you say, but I have the point of view of a car-buyer. That is, if the dealer wants $30,000 for a car but I want to pay $20,000, my opening gambit isn’t going to be an offer of $25,000.

      Your view, I guess, is related to the “let’s get medical marijuana legalized so that eventually all drug laws can be abolished.”

      1. Well incrementalism can be effective, but Ryan’s plan is more like “I promlse allow medical mj on a state by state basis with 2/3 voter approval and high minimum turnout…in 10 years.”

    2. Rand Paul put forth a budget plan that was far from a libertarian dream solution, but that actually balanced the budget. Of course, no one else wants to cut 700 billion in spending off the top.

  20. The answer is “yes”.

    Ryan’s budget is weak beer compared to our actual fiscal problems and it is radical compared to what most other people in Congress are willing to do about it.

  21. Both. Ryan’s budget plans are weak beer, because they barely cut anything. They’re radical because they’re actually plans.

    1. One is considered a radical if you just contemplate cutting spending, to be mainstream you need to support the idea that spending must increase forever.

  22. In Washington, it’s still considered a budget cut if it is a reduction in the amount you WANT to spend. (that’s what Democrats mean when they talk about hard decisions….”Sorry, America…the Department of lollipops and glitter will have to wait for a new ice cream palace”)

  23. You people still acting like something is going to get fixed? Ever?

    The alpha sociopaths are in control. Have been for a long time now.

    Me, I’m keeping my head down, investing very carefully, working hard, and somewhere between age 52 to 55 I’ll retire early and GTFO of this sinking ship. I won’t be in what the kids (and those of childlike mentality) call the 1%, but I don’t need much.

    There’s no hope. There never was.

  24. Others suggest much the same, but while it’s weak beer, it’s enough to put him on the fringe of the political establishment. For even the teenie-weanie amount of deficit reduction he proposes, he’s labeled Paul Ryan, Grannykiller (I’m sure the stories about how he likes to feast on the bones of little homeless scamps will be forthcoming.). We’ve seen what the results of an actually more serious approach to deficit reduction is. Rand Paul proposed it. He was promptly patted on the head and told “That’s nice.”
    Politics is the art of the possible. And acting like mature adults who can live within their means doesn’t seem to qualify for the modern American political class.

  25. Weak beer is better than no beer. Or rather weak beer is better than being served piss in a cup and told how good it is for you. Maybe if Americans get a taste of the weak stuff and see that it doesn’t murder old ladies, they’ll be more curious about trying a porter. Optimistic, but I don’t like the alternative.

    1. The Ryan ‘cuts’ are a joke. 10 years to balance a budget? So we hit $30T in debt before we go into the ‘black.’ Then what? The sadder part is this ‘plan’ also requires the economic forecasting become more accurate than what the weathermen can deliver. The saddest part is there are idiots out there who really thing the Ryan plan is ‘radical’.

      1. But, that’s the problem. Even this gets its proponent made out to be something akin to Ebenezer Scrooge. If you propose something more extensive, you’ll be patted on the head and told to run along. By your own party if they are interested in winning elections.

        1. True. The goal for the two parties is power, not the good of the nation. We need a viable third choice — badly.

        2. Thought some more about your ‘patted on the head …’ You are correct, but the upside down lunacy is galling.

          What is needed is some adult behavior a la ‘The party is over’ which means slashing the budget, both non-discretionary and discretionary – big time. We need to be in the black — would prefer to see the debt, not the deficit disappear in ten years.

          But such talk is regarded as crazy by those in power, the sheep, and the parasites.

  26. “Then again, from a small-government libertarian perspective, he voted for Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, TARP, auto bailouts, and all the wars waged by George W. Bush.”

    Gee…do you think he was one of the major players who put us in this mess?

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