Matt Bai writes about the Paul Ryan's budget plan ... without writing about Paul Ryan's budget plan:
“He’s not saying the world’s going to be full of butterscotch sundaes,” is how [former Republican Florida Governor] Jeb Bush described the plan to me recently. “He’s saying: ‘Eat your broccoli. And then maybe you don’t get to eat at all for a few days. You don’t get steak — ever.’”
Unless, of course, you're wealthy, because the plan cuts upper-income tax brackets by 10 percent, so that "households with incomes of more than $1 million would receive an average annual tax cut of $502,000, and the richest one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans would receive an average tax cut of $1.7 million a year. " Meanwhile, everyone making under $100,000 will see their taxes increased, on average by $2,000. What that says to me is that the rich get steak, and the poor probably don't get to eat at all for a few days. People complain about Bai's failure to use research in his work, but letting Bush describe the plan that way without, apparently, checking into the numbers at all is a bit of professional malpractice.
On Twitter, Matt Yglesias already noted the hilarity of this line: "Let’s leave aside for now the debate over the viability of the road map, which, as a practical matter, doesn’t stand a chance of being enacted as is, anyway." Bai leaves the actual substance of the framework aside to muse about whether Ryan will be a good negotiating partner for President Obama next year, after Republicans presumably see gains in Congress. You'd think whether or not his vision is a viable one would have something to do with that.
Bai's focus on Ryan's personality even gets to the point where he observes that Ryan "appears to be the rare kind of guy who actually dreams of making Social Security solvent." One easy way to check that appearance is to look at his road map. This Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analysis notes that "because the plan would divert large sums from Social Security to private accounts, it would leave the program facing insolvency in about 30 years, just as under current law." A warning, then, to Bai: Appearances can be deceiving.
-- Tim Fernholz